The Senate Finance Committee voted 12-7 to approve legislation to reauthorize the State Childrens Health Insurance Program, following lengthy partisan debate on various eligibility requirements.
The legislation as amended 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, low-income children. The bill would be funded primarily by a 61-cent increase in the federal tax on cigarettes, with proportional increases for other tobacco products.
What the bill doesnt do is ensure that crowd-outthe process in which families leave private insurance for public coveragedoesnt occur; a measure to prevent crowd-out was included in previous attempts to reauthorize SCHIP, argued Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the committees ranking member.
Coverage of immigrants was also an issue, with the GOP opposing new language that would allow low-income, uninsured, legal immigrant children and pregnant women into the program without a five-year waiting period. By adding these groups to SCHIP rolls, the program is taking on a huge number of additional kids and adding huge costs to entitlement programs, said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).
Grassley managed to get an amendment approved that would require states to review the legal status of enrollees when rechecking their income status. Some of these new provisions, including an amendment allowing children lacking dental coverage in their own private health insurance to receive dental benefits through SCHIP, would bump up the overall cost of the bill, priced at $31.5 billion over 4.5 years. Committee members said these additional costs would be paid for under the tobacco offset.