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January 30, 2009

Senate Passes (S-CHIP) Health Insurance Bill for Children

Yeah – finally a government by the people for the people!!!

Yesterday the Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation to provide health insurance to 11 million low-income children — a bill that will for the first time spend federal money to cover children and pregnant women who are legal immigrants.

During the presidential campaign, then Senator Obama pledged to provide coverage to every American child.

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), which is aimed at families earning too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance, currently covers close to 7 million youngsters at a cost of $25 billion.

Lawmakers voted 66 to 32, largely along party lines, to renew the joint state-federal program and spend an additional $32.8 billion to expand coverage to 4 million more children. The expansion would be paid for by raising the cigarette tax from 39 cents to $1 a pack.

President Obama is expected to sign a final version as early as next week.

Democratic lawmakers, noting that President George W. Bush twice vetoed similar legislation, praised the vote as evidence of the changing Washington landscape.

“Low-income, uninsured kids all across America have been waiting for Congress to fulfill the promise of the Children’s Health Insurance Program for them,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (Mont.). The program “works to get low-income, uninsured kids the doctor’s visits and medicines they need to stay healthy, and approval of this bill opens the door of the doctor’s office to millions of children who live without proper health care today.”

Governors, business executives and consumer advocates lobbied for the expansion, arguing that more and more families have sought the assistance in this weakened economy.

“During this economic turmoil, it is critical that we maintain and strengthen this important lifeline to our nation’s children and that we help financially strapped states respond to the growing need for affordable health-care coverage,” said Cindy Mann, executive director of Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families.

Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, agreed that “we’re not seeing bipartisanship” but said she is optimistic that the public’s overwhelming desire for improvement in the health system will force the two parties to the bargaining table. “People are talking about how to do it as opposed to whether to do it,” she said.

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