Republicans Oppose Broader Children’s Health Bill

Republicans oppose broader children's health bill

Associated Press
01.27.09, 08:48 AM EST

Republican lawmakers tried to slow momentum for expanding a children's health insurance program Monday by arguing that a bill in the Senate would draw about 2.4 million children away from private insurance into government-sponsored coverage.

Overall, the Senate legislation would increase spending by $31.5 billion over the next 4 1/2 years. The expansion would be paid for by increasing the federal excise tax on tobacco products.

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said the legislation does not do enough to limit the State Children's Health Insurance Program to low-income families. He said about a third of those who gain insurance as a result of the bill would otherwise have access to private insurance.

“We're going to replace a lot of private insurance with government insurance,” Kyl said.

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., replied that those arguing the program was too generous to middle-income families are “really out of touch with what these families face.”

SCHIP, which began in 1997, is a federal-state partnership that serves families making too much to qualify for Medicaid but struggling to afford private insurance.

States have broad flexibility to determine eligibility criteria, and Republicans say states like New Jersey and New York are broadening the program to families with incomes that exceed the need for government assistance.