Friday, January 30, 2009
The Senate passed a bill on Thursday to provide health insurance to more than four million uninsured children, as a newly empowered Democratic majority brushed aside Republican objections. The vote was 66 to 32, with nine Republicans joining Democrats to support the bill.
The Senate debate showed the outlines of what promises to be a much larger political fight over universal coverage. While Democrats championed expansion of the child health program, many Republicans, including Senator John McCain of Arizona, said they worried that it was part of a long-term effort to replace private health insurance with government programs. The House passed a nearly identical bill two weeks ago, by a vote of 289 to 139, with 40 Republicans joining nearly all Democrats in support of the measure. . . .
One of the most significant sections of the child health bill would allow states to use federal money to cover children and pregnant women who are legal immigrants. Under existing law, legal immigrants are generally barred from Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program for five years after they enter the United States. “The bill would end an inequity that we have been trying to eradicate for more than a decade,” said Jennifer M. Ng’andu, a health policy specialist at the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic rights group.
The Congressional Budget Office said the bill would enable states to cover more than four million uninsured children by 2013, while continuing coverage for seven million youngsters. The bill would increase tobacco taxes to offset the increase in spending, estimated at more than $32 billion over four and a half years. . . .