By arguing that the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (S. 275) “would draw about 2.4 million children away from private insurance into government-sponsored coverage,” the Associated Press reports that Republicans are beginning to build their opposition arguments against the package.
Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said the legislation does not do enough to limit the State Children’s Health Insurance Program to low-income families. He said about a third of those who gain insurance as a result of the bill would otherwise have access to private insurance.
“We’re going to replace a lot of private insurance with government insurance,” Kyl said.
Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., replied that those arguing the program was too generous to middle-income families are “really out of touch with what these families face.”
The bill would expand existing coverage of roughly 7.4 million children (a new figure from last year given in the AP article) under the program to include an additional 3.9 million. It would provide around $31.5 billion in funding for the program and reauthorize it through September of 2013.
Opposition, especially among conservative Republican members, will also center around a provision I’ve mentioned before which would extend some coverage under the program to children of illegal immigrants. Such a provision will cost around $1.3 billion over a five-year period.
Kyl said many Republicans also oppose a provision, approved by the House, that lets states use Medicaid or SCHIP to cover children of legal immigrants. Current law requires a five-year waiting period before legal immigrants become eligible for coverage under Medicaid and SCHIP.
The provision has a cost of about $1.3 billion over five years and would allow about 300,000 more children to participate in SCHIP after that period. Eighteen states incur the cost of health coverage for children of new legal immigrants, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning think tank.
“All lawfully present children should have timely access to health care,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V. “Five years is a lifetime for a child stricken with cancer or any other life-threatening illness or disability.”
Democrats who crafted the SCHIP expansion bill hope to pay for it by, among other things, “increasing the federal excise tax on a pack of cigarettes to $1” which is a “61-cent increase.”
Update: Congressional Quarterly reports that Senate Republicans are “threatening to oppose the bill.”