One of the first bills which may land on the desk of incoming President Obama may be the reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program known as SCHIP. Nearly 40,000 Minnesotans receive health insurance through SCHIP. In 2007, Minnesota received over $52 million in federal SCHIP dollars.
Congressional leaders are moving forward this week with a bill similar to the one that President Bush vetoed (twice) in 2008. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says that the bill’s expansion of SCHIP to cover 4 million additional children nationwide (for a total of 11 million) will cost $14 billion more than the two bills passed last year and vetoed by the President. Last year’s two SCHIP bills would have cost $35 billion and would have been paid for with a 61-cent-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax. The new SCHIP bill shortens the reauthorization period from five years to four and a half years to reduce the bill’s price tag and make it more politically palatable.
On Jan. 14, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the SCHIP bill by a vote of 289 to 139. Representatives Walz, Paulsen, McCollum, Ellison, Peterson and Oberstar voted for the bill. Representatives Kline and Bachmann voted against the bill.
The SCHIP bill now moves to the U.S. Senate where the Finance Committee is expected to take up the bill the week of Jan. 19 with a final vote in the full Senate expected within the next two weeks.