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Senate Passes SCHIP Bill in Party-line Vote

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program already insures close to 7 million children at a cost of $25 billion. The children come from families too well-off to qualify for Medicaid but too poor to afford private health insurance.

The Senate bill renews the program and provides an additional $32.8 billion over the next four and a half years to cover 4 million more children. Even with the new funding, experts estimate that about 5 million children in the U.S. will remain uninsured.

The House already approved a similar bill two weeks ago, and they will take up the Senate bill next week. President Bush twice vetoed similar legislation, but President Obama is expected to sign it.

“Providing health care to more than 10 million children through the Children’s Health Insurance Program will serve as a down payment on my commitment to ensure that every American has access to quality, affordable health care,” the president said in a statement.

The measure passed the Senate with the support of all 57 Democrats, but only nine Republican votes. The program has enjoyed more bipartisan support in the past — it was created under a Republican-controlled Congress in 1997 and as recently as last year prominent Republicans such as Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa supported it.

But Republican lawmakers objected to the most recent version of the bill, which dropped several of the compromises Democrats made in the 2007 version. For example, the bill that passed Thursday dropped a provision requiring a five-year waiting period before legal immigrants were covered.

Senate Republicans expressed dismay about the dropped compromises.

“We could have had 95 votes,” Hatch said, according to the Washington Post. “That would have sent a tremendous, tremendous message that hasn’t been sent around here for a long time.”

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