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SCHIP Insurance Negotiations Break Down As Recess Begins

Armen Hareyan's picture

State Children's Health Insurance Program

Lawmakers on Thursday were unable to reach a compromise on legislationthat would reauthorize and expand SCHIP before Congress adjourned forthe Thanksgiving recess, CongressDaily reports. According to CongressDaily,negotiations on the bill could continue in December, but somecongressional sources "said there is virtually no chance of reaching adeal before the end of the year." House Republicans on Thursdaypresented Senate negotiators with their "final offer," and it was stillbeing vetted hours before lawmakers adjourned for the recess.

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AHouse Democratic leadership aide called the Republican proposal a"disaster," saying it would not cover 10 million children -- an issuethat Democrats are unwilling to compromise on (Johnson, CongressDaily,11/16). According to a House Democratic leadership aide, "The proposalthat Republicans put forward would walk away from the bipartisan goalof insuring 10 million kids." The aide said Democrats also opposedprovisions of the plan that would change the way states calculateMedicaid eligibility, which could result in some children losingcoverage, and a requirement that states that provide SCHIP coverage tomiddle-income families roll back their programs, which also wouldresult in some children losing coverage.

A House Republicanleadership aide said that Democrats' response "signals a hesitation" ontheir part "to deal seriously with this independent group of HouseRepublicans who are trying to have their issues addressed." Republicanswould like to limit coverage of adults and tighten restrictions ofcoverage of undocumented immigrants (Wayne, CQ Today, 11/15).

According to CongressDaily,the situation is complicated by "House Republicans' inability to whiptheir fellow members on whether any more support exists for the bill."Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) said it is difficult to ask lawmakers tosupport an agreement when the terms of a deal keep changing (CongressDaily, 11/16).

Shouldthe December discussions not produce a bill, the future of SCHIP is"unclear," because Democrats "might have trouble passing even anextension stretching into fall 2008," according to CQ Today. Funding for the program expires on Dec. 14, and another "short-term fix may be possible," CQ Today reports. The Congressional Research Servicehas determined that 21 states need a combined additional $1.6 billionin federal funds for fiscal year 2008 to maintain current enrollment inthe program (CQ Today, 11/15).

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.