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Baucus Pushes SCHIP Funding

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The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said last week that the panel will start work in June on drafting legislation to reauthorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Fund, which expires Sept. 30.

In comments on the Senate floor, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., asked for bipartisan support for the legislation, whose extension is a top priority for health insurers.

Baucus outlined “5 principles” he will use in dealing with reauthorization of the fund, 1 of which is to establish a floor of $13.4 billion in additional funding for the program over 10 years, which is the amount the Congressional Budget Office says is the minimum the program needs over 10 years just to maintain current coverage.

The non-binding budget resolution passed this month by Congress authorizes $50 billion in additional funding for the program over 10 years.

But that additional funding is dependent on many “ifs” that health care industry officials believe will be difficult to attain.

First, there is an assumption of a 61-cent per pack increase in the federal tobacco tax, which would raise $35 billion over 10 years and was included in the budget resolution passed by the Senate on March 23.

That resolution also calls for using $10 billion in reserve funds and $5 billion from surplus funds in fiscal year 2012 to pay for the expansion. But neither of those items was included in the final budget resolution passed by Congress earlier this month.

Among Baucus’s other principles are:

–Reaching the 6 million uninsured children who are eligible for either CHIP or Medicaid coverage but are not enrolled.

–Supporting state efforts to expand CHIP coverage to more kids.

–Improving the quality of health care that children receive.

–Not adding to the numbers of the uninsured.