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House pushes through revised SCHIP legislation

Only a week after failing to override a presidential veto, House Democrats have pulled together replacement legislation to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The bill (H.R. 3963) passed the House Thursday on a 265-142 vote. It was quickly crafted to address some of the concerns that brought about opposition from President Bush and Republicans to the original legislation.

The override effort fell 12 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to circumvent the president’s veto. The measure would need approximately 290 votes to ensure passage in the event of a presidential veto.

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As constructed, the revised version of the Children’s Health Insurance bill still would cover about 10 million children – the estimated 6 million already covered by the program and nearly 4 million children who are now eligible but not enrolled.

The new bill aims to cap concerns by capping coverage for children to those in families making less than 300 percent of the federal poverty line, which is just more than $60,000 for a family of four.

The bill also would limit the ability of illegal immigrants to get SCHIP coverage. Those applying for the coverage would have to have personal information processed by the Social Security Administration, and under the new legislation, they would be required to provide the state with additional documentation if the SSA can’t confirm citizenship.

The bill also would focus the programs on children’s coverage and not adults; childless adults would be phased out of the program within a year, not two years as under the previous bill. And the new bill would make it harder for children to move from private insurance coverage to SCHIP programs.

The bill would raise the additional funds for implementation by raising the tobacco tax to 61 cents a pack, a funding mechanism that the Bush administration has opposed in the past.

The quick movement on the legislation provided new hope for provider organizations, which also realized that passage would involve winning over Republicans who opposed the first attempt at SCHIP reauthorization.

“We urge the president to make the bill a reality for millions of children,” said Rich Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association. “Passing legislation to improve and extend SCHIP will ensure that this care remains available to keep America’s children healthy. We applaud lawmakers who voted in favor of the SCHIP bill, and we will continue to work to ensure that the health and well-being of children and families is one of our nation’s top priorities.”