House moves to extend SCHIP's scope

January 27, 2009

The House of Representatives passed a bill Jan. 14 to renew and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

The House of Representatives passed a bill Jan. 14 to renew and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), enabling 4.1 million new children to be included in the plan.

SCHIP will now be extended to 2013 and will encompass 11 million children of poorer families who don't qualify for Medicaid. The bill would allow coverage of 4.1 million children in families whose incomes total up to 300% of the federal poverty line. This is in addition to the 7 million already covered children. A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis puts the program's price at an estimated $32.3 billion from 2009 to 2013.

The bill largely mirrors SCHIP legislation proposed in 2007, except for a new provision that wouldenable states to waive the 5-year waiting period presently mandated for legal immigrants to apply for SCHIP. Additionally, the bill would permit eligibility to low-income, uninsured, legal immigrant pregnant women and children. The cost of such provisions is estimated at $3.9 billion from 2009 to 2019, the CBO reports.

The Senate version of the bill is similar to the House version; however, the Senate's bill does not permit states to waive the immigrant waiting period. This issue notwithstanding, President Barack Obama is expected to sign a SCHIP bill early in his presidency.