Lawmakers Fail To Reach Agreement On SCHIP Insurance Legislations
State Children's Health Insurance Program
Lawmakers on Wednesday failed to reach an agreement on revisions to a bill that would reauthorize and expand SCHIP, CongressDailyreports. The lawmakers had set Wednesday as the deadline to completenegotiations on the bill that could garner support from enough HouseRepublicans to override a presidential veto. After talks on Tuesdayfailed to produce an agreement, about 10 House Republicans joined thediscussions on Wednesday, including House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Joe Barton (R-Texas) (Johnson, CongressDaily, 11/8).
Accordingto meeting participants, the discussions focused on three main points:provisions to prevent undocumented immigrants from enrolling in theprogram; creating incentives for states to offer premium assistance tolow-income families to purchase private insurance; and creating amechanism that would prevent states from enrolling children in familieswith annual incomes greater than 250% of the federal poverty levelbefore enrolling children in families with annual incomes less than200% of the poverty level (Wayne, CQ Today, 11/7).
HouseMajority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that House leaders would notbring the bill to the floor without commitments from 20 HouseRepublicans who have voted against previous versions of the bill (CongressDaily, 11/8).
A document titled "Tentative CHIP Agreement," dated Nov. 7 and releasedby Senate negotiators, suggested that many details of the bill stillneed to be worked out, CQ Today reports. Carol Guthrie, a spokesperson for lead negotiator Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.), said that the document was "not current" but would not say how old it was.
Accordingto the document, lawmakers agreed that states could begin to enrollchildren in families with annual incomes greater than 250% of thepoverty level if they have enrolled 90% of children in families withannual incomes less than 200% of the poverty level, or if theircoverage rate of lower-income children was equal to or better than thatof the 20th-best performing state. The document also said thateligibility would be capped at 300% of the poverty level and stateswould not be allowed to use "income disregards" in determiningeligibility.
In addition, the document said states that coveradults through SCHIP would be required to move them out of the programby Dec. 31, 2009, or when their federal waivers expire. States withincome eligibility levels greater than 250% of the poverty level as ofJan. 1, 2010, would be required to offer premium assistance to allfamilies to pay for private insurance, according to the document.
As"outstanding issues," lawmakers listed disagreement over how to treatstates whose eligibility already exceeds 250% of the poverty level andhow often to test states for compliance. The document noted thatlawmakers disagree on whether states can presume certain children areeligible and enroll them in SCHIP, verifying eligibility later, andwhether children could be enrolled in SCHIP when they enroll in othergovernment programs, such as food stamps (CQ Today, 11/7).
U.S. Rep. and Louisiana Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal (R) said that anagreement is "very close," adding, "I think there's a lot of desire toget it done" (Shuler, Baton Rouge Advocate,11/8). However, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) on Wednesday said thatnegotiations could continue through the end of 2007. Rockefeller added,"Some people are talking because they care. And there are those thatmay be [talking] because they want to delay" (CongressDaily, 11/8).
StacyBernards, spokesperson for Hoyer, said, "As he has said, we want tonegotiate and we want a compromise to cover 10 million kids, but wewill not be strung along endlessly by those who don't sincerely want adeal" (CQ Today, 11/7). House Minority Whip Roy Blunt(R-Mo.) said that Democrats are further from a deal than they thought,adding, "Everything's in concept, if there's any agreement at all, andI don't think there's a lot of agreement in concept." Sen. Orrin Hatch(R-Utah) said, "Both sides want more than the other side can give" (CQ Today, 11/7).
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