Democratic lawmakers in Congress appear to be coalescing around a Senate plan to expand a federal health insurance program intended for children of the working poor by $35 billion over five years.
The program, known as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program or SCHIP, provides health insurance for children whose families cannot afford coverage but make too much to qualify for Medicaid. About 6.6 million children and 670,000 adults nationwide are insured through the program. The program will expire Sept. 30 without congressional action.
The proposed increase under debate would bring the total spending for the program to $60 billion over five years, compared with $75 billion over five years passed in a House bill to reauthorize SCHIP. Both House and Senate versions would let states make the program available to higher-income families if they chose.
However, the Senate proposal is twice as expensive as President Bush’s recommendation that the program be funded at $30 billion over five years. At a news conference last week, he reiterated his intention to veto any such expanded proposals.