The House of Representatives has passed legislation to maintain the State Children’s Health Insurance Programs and delay scheduled cuts to payments for physicians in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Members of the House voted for the bill, S. 2499, just before adjourning for the holidays, with a number of members promising to do more when they return to Washington in the New Year.
The bill was passed under expedited procedures as Congress raced to complete work and head home.
On Wednesday, the Senate passed the stop-gap legislation, which will maintain the Medicaid programs as is for 6 months and SCHIP through March 2009.
Members of both houses lamented that more had not been accomplished and sought to assign blame for the holdup.
“While I am glad to be able to continue health coverage for millions of children in CHIP today, this status-quo extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program is not what I wanted for America’s working families,” said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who chairs the Senate Finance committee.
“CHIP works to get low-income, uninsured American children the doctors’ visits and medicines they need to stay healthy. Congress and the President had numerous opportunities this year to do right by millions more low-income, uninsured American children who desperately need the health care and coverage CHIP can provide.”
Baucus added that the President’s vetoes of CHIP legislation “will force four million kids in need to continue to live without health care–for now.”
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking minority member of the Finance Committee, also lamented that more was not done by Congress. “The bill we considered today addressed the things Congress needed to do before going home for the holidays,” he said, adding that “I know many of my colleagues wanted to do more.”
However, while acknowledging that Republicans were unable to come to agreement on some of the issues among themselves, he also placed some of the blame on the shoulders of the Democratic majority.
“We have a Democratic Congress that has to work with a slim majority in the Senate and a Republican President,” he said. “At times this year, I’m not sure my colleagues on the other side of the aisle fully grasped the consequences of that reality. It certainly shows when you consider what we could have done this year and what was ultimately accomplished. I sincerely hope we do a better job of being bipartisan albeit in a political year.”