Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Congress is back in session and high on their list of priorities is finally reauthorizing the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) which couldn’t overcome a presidential veto in 2007. The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on Wednesday the 14th where it is likely to pass. Then the focus moves to the Senate with committee consideration this week followed by consideration by the full Senate next week.

The House and Senate bills are similar. The program will mean 4 million children in addition to the over six million children currently covered will be served by either the SCHIP or Medicaid programs. The majority of those newly covered children covered will be under 200% of the federal poverty level (currently $21,200 for a family of four). The legislation runs through September 2013 and is largely funded by a .61 cent increase in the tobacco tax.

One major difference between the two bills is coverage for low-income, legal immigrant children. The House gives states the option to remove the Medicaid and SCHIP five year waiting period for these children while the Senate does not. However, an amendment to add this provision to the Senate bill is expected to be offered and passed during Thursday’s Finance Committee markup. The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and other Committee members have voiced support for covering legal immigrant children . This provision, known as ICHIA (Immigrant Children’s Health Improvement Act), will also give states the option to provide coverage for low-income immigrant women who are pregnant.

Hopes are high in Washington that a bill will be ready for the president’s signature soon after the inauguration on January 20. Be sure to weigh in with your House members and Senators Brown and Voinovich on the importance of this program to Ohio’s families.

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