President Obama and provider groups alike hailed the Senates passage of a $32.8 billion bill to reauthorize the State Childrens Health Insurance Program.
The Senate voted 62-33 to approve the bill, which aims to cover at least 4.1 million additional children over 4½ years, funded primarily by a 62-cent increase in the federal tax on cigarettes, with proportional increases for other tobacco products.
In lieu of a House-Senate conference on the bill, the Senate version will proceed directly to the House for a vote, before it goes to 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.
The president is expected to sign the legislation. As the worsening economy causes families to lose their jobs and health insurance, it is vital that we redouble our efforts to ensure that every child in America has access to affordable healthcare. That is why I am pleased that the Senate has joined the House in passing bipartisan legislation to provide health insurance to children whose families have been hurt most by this downturn, Obama said in a written statement.
Expanding coverage represents a major step forward in preserving the financial health of hospitals, many of which have been providing unsustainable levels of uncompensated care in part because of cuts in state health insurance programs and the rise in unemployment, said Blair Childs, senior vice president of public affairs with the Premier healthcare alliance, in a statement. -- Jennifer Lubell