Thursday, October 25, 2007

House will consider a new SCHIP bill

Update to yesterday's post. The Washington Post reports that Democrats in the House of Representatives will introduce and vote on a new State Children's Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP) reauthorization bill today; The Hill has a longer article on the same story. Details of the legislation are still being ironed out, but it appears that the revision will have several features to increase support among Republicans. Most features of the original legislation, including its overall cost of $35 billion over the next five years and its financing through higher tobacco taxes would remain.

Among the new features...

  • The bill will set a firm eligibility cap of 3 times the poverty line (about $60,000 for a family of four).

  • It would mandate that all applicants provide Social Security Numbers and have those numbers checked by the Social Security Administration to ensure that illegal immigrants do not get benefits.

  • Performance bonuses would be given to states with high enrollments in the Medicaid program to make sure that the greatest effort was being made to cover the most disadvantaged children.

  • It would place greater restrictions on participation by non-pregnant adults.

  • Recall that the House missed overriding the President's veto of the original legislation by a mere 13 votes; so, sponsors only need to pick up a few more votes to get a veto-proof majority.

    The administration is grumbling, with no apparent sense of irony, that the House is not negotiating. The Hill reports that Secretary of Health and Human Services Leavitt acknowledged that some of the changes addressed administration concerns but said "it would be clear that they are not interested in compromise, that they’re not interested in a negotiation, that they’re simply interested in being able to expand [government] health insurance to higher and higher incomes, that they’re interested in moving people off of private insurance to government insurance, that they’re interested in seeing adults on SCHIP, and so forth."

    The SCHIP train may finally be leaving the station. The administration should declare this a return on success and climb on board.