President Obama To Sign SCHIP ..

February 4, 2009 - President Barack Obama is scheduled to sign into law on Wednesday, February 4, 2009 a bill expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to give health coverage to 4 million more children. The Senate passed the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 last Thursday by a vote of 66-32, with nine Republicans voting in favor of the measure. The House passed its own version of the measure on Jan. 14 by a vote of 289-139.

The SCHIP reauthorization bill expands coverage to 4 million more children at the cost about $33 billion over the next 4 1/2 years. The program currently covers 6.7 million children.

Republicans had opposed similar efforts last year to reauthorize SCHIP because of the the rising costs of Medicaid and concerns that illegal immigrants and high-income children would benefit from it. The issue of raising cigarette taxes from 39 cents per pack to $1 in order to fund the program has also been raised.

During the Senate debate last week, Republicans had tried to have an amendment added to the bill. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had said, "The Kids First Act closes a number of loopholes and gimmicks that are being used to expand the definition of 'low income' to families making $88,000 per year. I don't know anyone in Kentucky who would characterize $88,000 as 'low-income.'"

In the House two weeks earlier, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) had cited during floor debate that in many states, more than two-thirds of those enrolled in the SCHIP program are adults, and that while the bill clearly states illegal immigrants will not be covered, it provided no verification process for ensuring that only legal residents and U.S. citizens are insured.

The passage of the SCHIP reauthorization is part of a broader effort from the Obama administration and Democrats to overhaul the nation's ailing healthcare system. Obama had pledged during the campaign to expand coverage by including children but did not include individual mandates, a point which his former rival, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, had frequently criticized.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, released a proposal late last year guaranteeing universal healthcare coverage for all Americans. The lawmaker, whose committee has jurisdiction over Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP and other health entitlement programs, was the first Democrat to unveil a healthcare reform proposal after the presidential elections.

The National Alliance for Hispanic Health estimated that more than one-third of the children added to the program will be Hispanics who currently have no health insurance. Health officials project that there are about nine million uninsured children in the United States.

The American Cancer Society predicted that the tax increase on tobacco would reduce youth smoking by about 7% and overall cigarette consumption by 4%.

Remarks by President Barack Obama on Children’s Health Insurance Program Bill Signing..

Reference: Obama To Sign SCHIP Wednesday Giving 4 Million More Children Health Coverage, Kris Alingod - AHN Contributor, AHN, 2/4/2009; SCHIP Happens
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