The Senate voted 66-32 to approve a $32.8 billion bill that would reauthorize the State Childrens Health Insurance Program over the next 4½ years.
The bill aims to cover at least 4.1 million additional children, funded primarily by a 62-cent increase in the federal tax on cigarettes, with proportional increases for other tobacco products, according to recent estimates by the Congressional Budget Office.
The vote took place after several days of partisan debate over the bills eligibility requirements. Numerous attempts by GOP senators to put a cap on eligibility to prevent crowd out, situations where families would drop private coverage and enroll in SCHIP, were defeated.
Any attempt to limit eligibility raises the possibility of kicking kids out of the SCHIP program, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) stated.
In lieu of a House-Senate conference on their respective bills, the Senate version will proceed directly to the House for a vote, before it goes to President Obama. The House and Senate bills are nearly identical, except the House bill contains an additional funding provision that would ban physician self-referral to hospitals in which they have an ownership interest.