Friday, January 30, 2009
Legislation passed by the Senate yesterday renews and extends the State Children's Health Insurance Program. The joint state-federal program is targeted to youngsters in low-income families that do not qualify for Medicaid.
The Senate bill:
· Continues coverage for 7 million children currently enrolled in the program, plus an additional 4 million youngsters who do not currently have insurance.
· Extends the program for 4 1/2 years.
· Raises the federal cigarette tax by 61 cents a pack, to $1 per pack.
· Allows states to offer coverage immediately to children of legal immigrants, abolishing a five-year waiting period.
· Costs $32.8 billion, in addition to the $25 billion now spent on the program.
· Gives states the option of providing dental coverage to some families with slightly higher incomes.
· Provides additional money to states to recruit and enroll eligible children.
· Caps the federal government's contribution for children in families above 300 percent of the poverty level.
The House passed similar legislation Jan. 14. The current program is set to expire March 31.
-- Ceci Connolly