The House and Senate reached a compromise on legislation that reauthorizes the State Childrens Health Insurance Program for another five years with an additional $35 billion, while rolling back a Bush administration directive that tightens enrollment requirements for states.
Lawmakers from both chambers lauded the package, which is expected to cover the 6.6 million children already enrolled in the program and an additional 4 million more who are eligible for the federal-state program but not enrolled. As expected, the bill does not contain payment cuts to Medicare Advantage plans, nor does it contain the reversal of an expected 10% physician fee cut slated for next year. Both provisions were favored in the House.
A provision in the bill effectively quashes an Aug. 17 directive that stops states from expanding coverage to children from higher-income families unless states can guarantee that they have successfully enrolled 95% of the eligible children from families below 200% of the federal poverty level in either SCHIP or Medicaid. (Currently, the poverty level for a family of four is $20,650.) No state currently has been able to demonstrate that they have enrolled 95% of the eligible population.
Under the agreement, states would have more time and assistance in developing and implementing best practices to address the issue of enrollee flight from private plans into the federal-state run SCHIP program.
Both the House and Senate are expected to vote on the bill next week. SCHIP expires on Sept. 30. President Bush has threatened to veto legislation that would expand the program. -- by Matthew DoBias
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