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Congress Poised to Add Millions of Uninsured Children to Successful, Bipartisan Health Plan
Date:9/12/2007

House and Senate Push Ahead on Reconciling Separate Bills, Despite the Cloud of a Presidential Veto Threat and New Administration Roadblocks

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- U.S. House and Senate leaders are meeting this month to work out differences between their separate versions of legislation that reauthorizes the 10-year-old State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). A new report from Families USA spells out how many additional children would be covered in each state under the House and Senate bills.

Originally approved by a Republican Congress and signed by a Democratic president, the new approved bill is expected to add between $35 and $50 billion over five years to provide health coverage for as many as five million of the nation's estimated 9 million uninsured children.

This additional funding would lead to a substantial reduction in the number of uninsured children. As currently approved, the Senate bill would cut the nation's rolls of uninsured children -- estimated at more than nine million -- by about four million, a 44 percent drop. The House version, with a higher proposed funding level, would reduce the number of uninsured children by about five million, or 55 percent.

Federal legislators face a number of challenges in their efforts to renew and enhance SCHIP, including trying to meet the Sept. 30 expiration of the original program. A far greater challenge, however, has been posed by President Bush, who has repeatedly stated his intention to veto the new bill and whose Administration this month issued new guidelines that undercut the original flexibility given to states to implement the program.

"With the renewal of SCHIP, we have an opportunity to build on one of the greatest legislative success stories in recent years," Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA said today. "Leaders of both parties in Congress recognize the importance of making sure our children have access to quality health care that will enable them to develop into healthy and productive citizens."

Pollack called attention to the fact that a presidential veto will not only halt the efforts to enroll more uninsured children in state health plans but will also throw millions of children already enrolled in SCHIP out of the program.

"In the midst of what the nation has come to recognize as a crisis in our entire system of health care delivery, the president's veto would be an astounding step backwards," Pollack said. "It would repudiate the funding requests from Republican and Democratic governors, who are trying to provide health coverage to their states' uninsured children.

"Most of all, it would deny millions upon millions of young Americans access to critical healthcare services outside of the emergency room."

Congress will take up the SCHIP reauthorization again this month. As senators and House members work toward final legislation that will increase coverage for children, they will also need to address the recent Bush Administration's policy changes that undercut states' ability to enroll additional uninsured children.

"The fact that the Bush Administration wants to take away the flexibility of states in administering the SCHIP program runs counter to the entire concept of a state-federal partnership and threatens the current success of the program in providing health coverage to uninsured children," Pollack said. "State governors -- Republican and Democrat alike -- have already expressed their dismay and disapproval of these unnecessary roadblocks to health care delivery.

"SCHIP must be renewed and enhanced. I urge the President to join -- not obstruct -- the effort to build a healthier future for our nation's millions of uninsured children."

"The children's health insurance legislation will literally have a positive effect on the lives of millions of children for a generation. Passing legislation like this is what the American people expect us to do in Washington," Senator Robert Casey (PA) said.

"For two years now, the number of uninsured children in our nation has increased each year," Congressman Frank Pallone (NJ) said. "However, Washington has an opportunity to reverse this troubling trend by strengthening the Children's Health Insurance Program. In the coming weeks, I hope that we can send the president a final CHIP bill that will allow us to ensure that more than 100,000 additional children in New Jersey receive access to health insurance so they can live long and healthy lives."

The Families USA report on the impact of the proposed SCHIP legislation -- both House and Senate version -- on the number of uninsured children in each state is available at http://www.familiesusa.org/assets/pdfs/chip-kids-waiting.pdf

Families USA is the national organization for health care consumers. It is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that advocates for high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans.


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SOURCE Families USA
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