The Senate voted 67-29 Thursday evening to approve a bill that would fund the 10-year-old State Children's Health Insurance Program with an additional $34.7 billion over five years and extend coverage to about 10 million children. That's enough affirmative votes to override a presidential veto, although the House fell short of that goal when it voted 265-159 to approve the bill on Sept. 25.
"We had to try to find middle ground, and we did just that. This bill targets the program back to its original focus: low-income children," Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said on the Senate floor, voicing the opinions of other Democrats and Republicans that support the bill. President Bush, however, is expected to veto the bill later this week, claiming that Congress is trying to expand SCHIP to children from higher-income families and promote socialized medicine.
To keep the program afloat in the event of a veto, both the House and Senate have approved budget measures to fund SCHIP for fiscal 2008 and for "one or more subsequent fiscal years."
The bill would allow coverage of higher income children but under certain conditions. After Oct. 1, 2010, federal matching payments would not be permitted to states that cover children whose family incomes exceed 300% of the federal poverty level, if they don't meet certain targets for covering children at or below 200% of the poverty level. It also takes steps to prevent substitution of SCHIP coverage for private coverage.
In other provisions, it would establish a contingency fund for states that would experience a funding shortfall as a result of enrolling more children from low-income families. States would get bonuses for exceeding targets in enrolling eligible children in Medicaid and SCHIP. -- by Jennifer Lubell
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