CONGRESSMAN JOE DONNELLY JOINS HOUSE IN APPROVING CHILDREN'S HEALTH INSURANCE PROGRAM BILL
BILL WOULD PROVIDE HEALTH CARE COVERAGE TO AN ADDITIONAL 70,000 UNINSURED CHILDREN IN INDIANA
Washington, D.C. - Yesterday, Congressman Joe Donnelly joined the House of Representatives in passing legislation that would reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) for an additional five years. This legislation would provide health coverage to approximately four million uninsured children while preserving coverage for 6.6 million children currently covered by SCHIP.
"Every child in Indiana and our nation should have a fair shot at high-quality medical care," Donnelly said. "But the reality of higher insurance premiums has meant that many hard-working families just can't afford to purchase private insurance. This common-sense, bipartisan bill will ensure that uninsured children who already qualify for SCHIP get the health care they need."
The State Children's Health Insurance Program was created in 1997 and provides matching funds to states to provide health insurance coverage to low-income uninsured children under the age of 19 whose families cannot afford health insurance but are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. In Indiana, the current requirement is 200 percent of the poverty level, which for a family of four is $41,300.
At some time during 2006, 133,696 children in Indiana were enrolled in SCHIP. However, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Indiana still has an estimated 160,000 uninsured children. The bill passed by the House tonight would provide health coverage to an estimated 70,000 of those 160,000 uninsured children.
At the end of July, the House passed a different bill reauthorizing SCHIP known as the CHAMP Act without Donnelly's support. However, an agreement was struck by members of the House and Senate last week producing a piece of legislation that addressed Donnelly's primary concerns with the bill, including the removal of controversial changes to Medicare.
The agreement between the House and Senate would reauthorize SCHIP for another five years and ensure that more children who already qualify for SCHIP are covered. The legislation reduces Federal matching funds for future coverage of children at higher income levels, and provides incentives to cover the lowest-income children. Also, SCHIP coverage of childless adults and parents will be phased out to maintain the program's focus on kids. This bill also clarifies existing law that prohibits providing coverage to illegal immigrants and legal immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for fewer than five years.
"I wasn't satisfied with the legislation that came before the House in July because of its high cost and because I believe it had grown well beyond its original intent: providing healthcare for uninsured children," Donnelly said. "But the legislation we passed today does not affect seniors, reduces unnecessary spending and still gives states the resources and incentives necessary to reach millions of uninsured children who are not enrolled in CHIP. The agreement reached between the House and the Senate is a result of bipartisan, bicameral negotiations and as the Sunday deadline approaches, I hope the President will reconsider his threat to veto this critical legislation."
The legislation passed the House by a vote of 265-159. The Senate is expected to take up the measure shortly in order to deliver a full renewal of SCHIP to the President for signature into law before the program's current authorization expires on September 30, 2007.