SCHIP Bill Passes Senate Finance Committee
By a 12-7 vote, the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday approved SCHIP reauthorization and expansion legislation that could add four million children to the program, the AP/Boston Globe reports (AP/Boston Globe, 1/16). The bill, introduced by committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.), would expand the program by $31.5 billion over four-and-one-half years. The House passed a similar bill (HR 2) on Wednesday. The bill now goes to the floor, where Senate leaders are expected to amend Baucus' language into the House-passed bill and send it to conference to resolve any differences.
The Finance Committee adopted an amendment by Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) that would allow states to waive the federally mandated five-year waiting period for documented immigrants seeking public health benefits in the case of pregnant women and children. The provision, included in the House bill, could add "several billion dollars" to the cost of the measure, CQ Today reports. According to CQ Today, the provision "was the only major point of disagreement" between the House and Senate versions of the bill.
Republican members of the committee were "upset" over several facets of the bill, CQ Today reports. They expressed concern regarding provisions that would eliminate the waiting period for documented immigrants, loosen citizen and residency documentation requirements, change policies on how to deal with people who transfer from private insurance to SCHIP and lessen income limits.
Republicans proposed several motions to increase restrictions for immigrants seeking SCHIP coverage; however, just one was adopted. The provision, submitted by Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), would require states to review citizenship or legal residency status of SCHIP beneficiaries during the process of verifying beneficiaries' income levels. Under the provision, SCHIP enrollees who lose their documented status while enrolled in the program would be disenrolled. The committee also adopted an amendment from Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) that would allow states to offer dental insurance to children who have private health coverage but do not have dental coverage.
Grassley said that passing SCHIP reauthorization would complicate efforts to pass health care overhaul legislation later in the year. "In a lot of ways it makes more sense to do a simple extension of SCHIP for two years so we can work through how to fold SCHIP into a program that covers everyone," he said (Armstrong, CQ Today, 1/15).