House Republicans Delay SCHIP Consideration

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State Children's Health Insurance Program

Republican opposition to House legislation (HR 3162)that would reauthorize and expand SCHIP on Tuesday sparked an effort todelay consideration of the legislation by stalling the fiscal year 2008Agricultural Appropriations bill, which is scheduled to be consideredfirst, in order "to highlight Republican complaints about the House'spartisan approach to SCHIP reauthorization," CongressDaily reports (Johnson/Bourge, CongressDaily,8/1). The House legislation would reduce payments to Medicare Advantageplans and increase the federal cigarette tax by 45 cents per pack toincrease funding for SCHIP by $50 billion over five years (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 7/30).

TheSCHIP bill is scheduled to be considered under a closed rule that willlimit debate. However, Republicans "seized the opportunity" on Tuesdayto debate SCHIP under the open rule for the agricultural appropriationsbill, according to CQ Today (Armstrong/Wayne, CQ Today, 7/31). As a result, the appropriations bill was sent back to the House Rules Committeeto have ground rules set for floor debate. "You have not left my partyan alternative," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said(Richert, CQ Today, 7/31). Senior Democrats said that a final passage vote on SCHIP legislation likely would come late Wednesday (Ota, CQ Today, 7/31).

Inrelated news, the House Rules Committee has posted the text of theSCHIP legislation on its Web site, although the posted version includesneither recent changes by the House Energy and Commerce Committee nor revisions that allow the measure to meet pay/go requirements (CQ HealthBeat, 7/31). The bill text is available online. Note: you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the bill.

Pay/Go Savings

House Democrats on Tuesday said the revisions to SCHIP legislationintended to meet pay/go requirements will save $65 billion over thesecond half of 10 years, CongressDaily reports (Johnson, CongressDaily, 7/31).

Tomeet the pay/go guidelines, Democrats on Monday agreed to reduce theamount of funding allotted for bonuses to states for enrolling childrenin SCHIP. Lawmakers also agreed to limit to two years plans to reversescheduled cuts in Medicare payments to physicians, according to a Houseaide (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 7/31).

House Energy and Commerce Health SubcommitteeChair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said that the bonus payment change wouldsave $30 billion and the physician reimbursement provision about $35billion (CongressDaily, 7/31).

Senate Vote

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The Senate on Tuesday continued debate on its SCHIP bill (S 1893), which Democrats "intend to substitute for the text of a House-passed tax bill (HR 976) that will be stripped of its contents and used as a vehicle" for SCHIP reauthorization, CQ Today reports (Ota, CQ Today, 7/31).

Sen.Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Tuesday said that the opportunity forRepublicans to offer related and unrelated amendments to the SCHIP billmight ease the path toward Senate consideration, CQ HealthBeat reports (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 7/31).

Ideological Divide

The SCHIP reauthorization debate "has suddenly become a vehicle for anideological struggle between President Bush and Congress over thefuture of the health care system," the New York Times reports. According to the New York Times,Bush and some Republicans view efforts to expand SCHIP "as astalking-horse for government-run health care, national healthinsurance and socialized medicine" (Pear, New York Times, 8/1).

Inaddition, Republican lawmakers say Democrats' efforts "undermined themarketplace" by offering coverage to children who already have privateinsurance at the expense of Medicare benefits for the elderly becauseof proposed MA plan cuts, according to the Washington Times.However, Democrats reject Republicans' "charges that additionalchildren their proposals would serve aren't worthy of federally fundedhealth care," the Washington Times reports (Lengell, Washington Times, 8/1).

Somecongressional Republicans "say they're sympathetic" to Bush's criticismthat the proposed SCHIP expansion is too large, but "those worries takea back seat to their states' interests," according to the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Hirschfeld Davis, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8/1).

Inaddition, some Republican lawmakers say that Bush "is not running forre-election" and is able to oppose an SCHIP expansion out of"conviction and principle," which Republicans are not able to do, the Timesreports. In the "short term, members of both parties say, the broaderoutline of that struggle is likely to be reduced to a simple question:Are you for or against children?" according to the New York Times (New York Times, 8/1).

Editorial, Opinion Pieces

  • Newt Gingrich and David Merritt, Atlanta Journal-Constitution:"Through tax increases, political payoffs and a slow bleeding ofprivate health insurance," House Democrats "seek to push the Americanpeople into Washington-controlled bureaucratic health care" throughSCHIP legislation, Gingrich, former speaker of the House and founder ofthe Center for Health Transformation, and Merritt, project director at the center, write in a Journal-Constitutionopinion piece. They conclude, "For a Congress that has the lowestpublic approval rating in history, one has to wonder why its leadersthink that raising taxes and cutting Medicare benefits for seniors isthe answer. This is not the kind of transformation the American peoplewant or deserve" (Gingrich/Merritt, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8/1).
  • Boston Globe:There is "no doubt" SCHIP legislation "will pass easily this week," andthe "only question is whether it will gain enough Republican votes tooverride a veto promised by" Bush, according to a Globe editorial (Boston Globe, 8/1).
  • Ronald Brownstein, Los Angeles Times:With the anticipated passage of SCHIP reauthorization, Congress "ismoving responsibly to remove a blot on the nation: the eight millionchildren without health insurance," Times columnistBrownstein writes in an opinion piece. However, Bush -- "seeminglydetermined to provoke every possible confrontation with congressionalDemocrats" -- is using a "swarm of misleading and hypocriticalarguments" to gain support for defeating the legislation (Brownstein, Los Angeles Times, 8/1).

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Reprinted with permission fromkaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire KaiserDaily Health Policy Report, search the archives, andsign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published forkaisernetwork.org,a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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