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Life Health > Health Insurance > Life Insurance Strategies

House Approves SCHIP Bill

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Despite a new veto threat from the White House, members of the House voted 225-204 today for a bill that would increase funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program by a total of $50 billion, or $10 billion per year, over the next 5 years.

SCHIP, which is set to expire Sept. 30, now gets about $5 billion per year. The White House has proposed spending an additional $5 billion, or $1 billion per year, on SCHIP over the next 5 years.

Members of the Senate hope to complete work on their SCHIP reauthorization bill before they leave Friday for a month-long recess.

The SCHIP bill, H.R. 3162, the Children’s Health and Medicare Protection Act, also calls for increases in doctors’ payments under Medicare and other expansions of the Medicare program.

H.R. 3162 would pay for the SCHIP funding increase by increasing the federal tobacco tax by 45 cents.

The bill also would cut payments to the private insurers that participate in the Medicare Advantage program, and it would impose new reporting mandates and other consumer protection rules on Medicare Advantage carriers.

Republicans criticized H.R. 3162 during floor debate.

“This is not just about helping low-income children,” said Rep. James McCrery, R-La., the most senior Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee. “This bill today seems to be spending government funds to lure middle class, upper middle class, even wealthy, perhaps, families, to opt out of private health coverage and go to government health coverage.”

The White House issued a statement indicating that President Bush will veto H.R. 3162 if it reaches his desk in its current form.

The bill “clearly favors government-run health care over private health insurance,” and spends far too much money, officials say in the statement.

John Greene, a lobbyist for the National Association of Health Insurers, Arlington, Va., called the Medicare Advantage marketing rules in H.R. 3162 “overkill.”

NAHU and other health insurance groups already are working with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Kansas City, Mo., to develop efforts to root out bad marketing practices, Greene said.

America’s Health Insurance Plans, Washington, says 3 million older Americans could lose Medicare Advantage coverage if Medicare Advantage critics succeed at restricting program funding.

About 49% of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries have incomes of less than $20,000 per year, and the cuts included in H.R. 3162 “would have a devastating impact on seniors’ health security,” AHIP President Karen Ignagni says.


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