Healthcare Business News

Swift action vowed on SCHIP reauthorization

By Jennifer Lubell
Posted: January 23, 2009 - 3:00 pm ET

The Senate plans on swift passage of legislation this week to reauthorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said at a news conference.

“We start work on this Monday night,” Reid said, adding that amendments could be offered on the floor at that time. The full Senate will be considering legislation approved by the Finance Committee several weeks ago that seeks to preserve coverage for as many as 6.7 million children now enrolled in SCHIP, while providing coverage to 3.9 million additional uninsured children from low-income families.

The $31.5 billion bill would be funded primarily by a 61-cent increase in the federal tax on cigarettes, with proportional increases for other tobacco products. It was passed in the finance committee by a 12-7 vote after lengthy partisan debate on eligibility requirements, specifically the inclusion of coverage for legal immigrants.

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“Some people want to make this a debate about immigration. It isn’t. It’s about insuring kids,” Reid said during the news conference. Companion House legislation, approved by a vote of 289-139, is comparable to the Senate bill but contains an additional funding provision that would ban physician self-referral to hospitals in which they have an ownership interest.

States continue to face challenges covering children from low-income families under SCHIP. According to a survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 19 states took steps last year to increase access to health coverage for children from low-income families, pregnant women and parents. At the same time, 10 states enacted at least one measure to restrict access.

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