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US lawmakers add health insurance for 4M more kids

 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., right, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Md., attend a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, We...
 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. applauds during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009, after the House passe...
 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., accompanied by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Md., right, and others, speaks during a news conference on ...

Children's Health Insurance

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., right, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Md., attend a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, We...

Children's Health Insurance

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. applauds during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009, after the House passe...

Children's Health Insurance

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., accompanied by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Md., right, and others, speaks during a news conference on ...

Making a down payment on President-elect Barack Obama's promise of universal health coverage, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to expand government-sponsored insurance to 4 million additional children in working families with income too high to qualify for government aid under Medicaid health insurance for the poor.
The action marked a major although perhaps fleeting victory for Obama, a strong advocate of greater governmental involvement in health care in the United States. Between 300,000 and 600,000 of the new enrollees could be noncitizen children of legal immigrants who have been in the country less than five years, a sticking point for some Senate Republicans planning to consider a similar bill.
Obama said he hoped the Senate acts with the "same sense of urgency so that it can be one of the first measures I sign into law when I am president."
"In this moment of crisis, ensuring that every child in America has access to affordable health care is not just good economic policy, but a moral obligation we hold as parents and citizens," he said. The United States is among few developed countries without some form of universal health care.
The bill would raise federal excise taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products to pay for expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program for the next 4 1/2 years. About 7 million children now get government-sponsored health care through SCHIP.
Forty Republicans joined Democrats in passing the House bill, 289-139. Congress passed similar legislation in 2007 but it was vetoed both times by departing President George W. Bush.
The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to begin writing a similar bill Thursday. Democrats would like to send a House-Senate compromise to Obama for his signature in coming weeks as an early victory signifying the party's control of both the White House and Congress for the first time since 1994.
"This is only the beginning of the change we will achieve with our new president," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, who got a congratulatory call from Obama after the vote.
The Congressional Budget Office projected that almost 83 percent of the 4.1 million uninsured children who would gain coverage are in families with incomes below current eligibility limits. About 700,000 children would gain coverage because their states broadened eligibility.
Republicans pointed to budget office estimates that the bill would shift 2.4 million children currently with private coverage to government-provided care.
They also objected to the additional spending.
"The kids will have to pay through the nose for the things we are doing today," said Republican Rep. Dan Burton. "We don't have the money to do all these things."
"Forty days in Iraq equals over 10 million children in America insured for one year," Pelosi said. "We certainly can afford to do that."
The bill would provide coverage for pregnant legal immigrants in addition their noncitizen children who entered the United States during the past five years.
Current law requires a five-year waiting period before legal immigrants become eligible for coverage under Medicaid and SCHIP. Supporters say expanding coverage would mean children could get treatment for acute conditions like asthma and diabetes so they were less likely to need care in hospital emergency rooms.
"These are not illegal immigrants. They are children who go to school, go to day care with our children, our grandchildren," said Democratic Rep. Gene Green, whose state, Texas, has a large Latino immigrant population. "Those children ought to have health care."


Updated : 2021-06-13 15:26 GMT+08:00