CHN: SCHIP Reauthorization on the Horizon
After a week of debating and considering amendments to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) reauthorization bill, the Senate passed H.R. 2 on January 29, 2009 by a vote of 66-32. H.R. 2 closely resembles the legislation the House passed on January 14 (see more details in Human Needs Report), and the two bills vetoed by President Bush in 2007. It is a $32.8 billion bill that would reauthorize the program for four and a half years and cover 4.1 previously uninsured children. It is paid for primarily by a 62 cents tobacco tax. One of the more significant changes, a major victory for the advocacy community, is the inclusion of a state option to remove the five-year waiting period for lawfully residing immigrant children and pregnant women to receive Medicaid and SCHIP. The Senate Finance Committee added this provision when it marked up the bill. For a concise summary and a side-by-side comparison of the House and Senate 2009 passed bills and the 2007 bill they were modeled after see the Center for Children and Families’ piece: http://ccf.georgetown.edu/index/cms-filesystem-action?file=policy/2009%20schip%20reauth/schipsummary1.29.09.pdf.
Various amendments were offered on the floor of the Senate. All but one of the amendments were rejected. The only amendment that was adopted was offered by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). It affects the “Express Lane” enrollment process, the state option to use financial information collected from food assistance and other means-tested programs to identify and enroll eligible children. The amendment, which was adopted 55-43, clarifies that parents can consent to their children’s enrollment in health coverage through methods other than signing a formal application form. All Democrats present and nine Republicans voted to pass H.R. 2.
It is expected that the House will clear the Senate-passed version this week and send it to President Obama for his signature.