SCHIP - state health insurance program for low-income kids

The State Children's Health Insurance Program, which covers low income children who aren't low income enough to qualify for Medicaid, was up for renewal since 2007 - and Dems (with the help of moderate Republicans) locked horns with President Bush to try to double the scope of the act. The president, who wanted more modest reforms, won.

Congress ultimately passed an expansion of SCHIP in 2009 under the Obama administration. This page just offers this recap of last year's debate:

In late September of '07, the House and Senate passed a bill that would increase spending on SCHIP to $60b over five years (up from $25b), paid for by a 61cent tax on ciggies.

The president vetoed the high price act but signaled he'd compromise on a cheaper bill. Although the Senate had enough votes to override the veto, the House failed to clear the veto threshold. (WP)

The extra coverage would have placed about 4 million new kids under SCHIP's umbrella (up from 6 million), making a big dent in covering the 9 million kids who are said to be uninsured. (Those are the numbers that are being widely reported in the big dailies, but Heritage, a conservative think tank, thinks fewer than 2 million will gain coverage; their analysis shows 2.4 million new kids under SCHIP, but 1 million of them leaping from private plans.)

The president, who proposed a $5b increase over five years (and later said he was flexible up to $20b), said Congress' bill went too far, allowing states to cover kids at up to 400% of the poverty level. The Urban Institute, a left of center think tank, says that, while in theory states could choose to cover kids at 400% of the federal poverty level, very few today choose to cover kids above 200% of poverty, so it's unlikely. They predict that 78% of kids coming on to SCHIP would be from below the 200% marker.

The House and Senate passed a second version of the bill in October to try to win over more Republicans, making it clear that illegal immigrants couldn't be covered, lowering the income threshold to 300% above poverty, putting more pressure on states to insure kids under the 200% mark and easing adults off SCHIP (in some states parents of eligible kids could also get covered). But that bill got dinged by Bush as well. In the end Congress voted to give SCHIP an extra year at life with only minimal increases in spending, enough to keep covering 6 million kids.

Updated January 26, 2008

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