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Lawmakers Not To Reach SCHIP Health Insurance Agreement Prior Thanksgiving

Armen Hareyan's picture

State Children's Health Insurance Program

A bipartisan group of lawmakers will not reach an agreement beforeThanksgiving on revisions to legislation that would reauthorize andexpand SCHIP, Senate Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said on Tuesday, CQ Todayreports. Grassley said that two weeks of discussions between Democratsand a group of House Republicans have not been sufficient to produce anagreement before the end of the week, when lawmakers begin a two-weekrecess.

According to Grassley, progress on a revised bill hasbeen slow because Democrats are concerned that some concessions toRepublicans -- in particular, whether parents should be eligible forSCHIP coverage -- could result in the loss of support from their ownparty. Grassley said, "There were some negotiations that went so far tosatisfy some Republicans that it made it possible we'd lose someDemocrats" (Wayne, CQ Today, 11/13).

SeveralHouse Democrats also "have drawn the line" on proof-of-citizenshiprequirements, saying they will not accept a bill that imposes heavydocumentation requirements on SCHIP applicants. In addition, lawmakershave not fully addressed other issues, such as whether eligibility forSCHIP can be determined through enrollment in other governmentprograms, such as school lunches or food stamps, and whether the SCHIPbill would change how states run their Medicaid programs (Johnson, CongressDaily, 11/14).

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Aspokesperson for Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.)said that the senator "wants to finalize an SCHIP agreement as soon aspossible, and he's working very hard with Sen. Grassley and with a hostof others to do so." According to CQ Today, it is "notimperative that Baucus finish a deal this week" because President Bushon Tuesday signed a continuing resolution that will fund the programuntil Dec. 14 (CQ Today, 11/13).

TriCaucus Concerns

Members of the TriCaucus -- Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus-- said that they would not support the revised SCHIP bill becauseDemocratic lawmakers are making too many concessions to Republicans, Roll Callreports. CAPAC Chair Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and CBC Chair Rep.Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) said that they have been excludedfrom negotiations on the bill. "We want to be informed. We want to be apart of that discussion before anything is put on the table," Hondasaid.

Kilpatrick said, "Because the negotiations seem to begiving away what we want to see, they won't pass that kind of bill withus." She added, "What we're only going to vote for at this point is acontinuation of the current SCHIP bill." TriCaucus members on Nov. 6sent a letterto Democratic leaders outlining their concerns about revisions to thebill, including proof-of-citizenship requirements and cuts to outreachprograms intended to enroll minorities in SCHIP.

A Democraticleadership aide said party leaders are aware of the TriCaucus'concerns, adding, "We have made it clear we are committed to ensuringthat any agreement would improve upon current law and ensure that thosewho legally have a right to coverage are not impeded." The aide said,"The bottom line is that we should prohibit those who are not in thecountry legally from receiving services, but in doing so, we shouldn'tblock U.S. citizens from getting health care" (Yachnin, Roll Call, 11/14).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily HealthPolicy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The HenryJ. Kaiser Family Foundation.