Colorado Delegation Split on SCHIP Bill

Colorado Democrats joined 261 other U.S. House members Tuesday in voting for a funding expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The measure passed, but with 151 members voting against it, President Bush’s threatened veto will not likely be overturned.

Colorado Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette has been a strong supporter of the House SCHIP bill and said it would provide health coverage for an additional 60,000 children in Colorado. About 56,000 children in the state whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but can’t afford private insurance are currently enrolled in SCHIP.

“This is a victory for millions of low-income kids nationwide who lack basic health care,” DeGette said in a statement. “This bill builds upon the tremendous success of the children’s health program over the last ten

SCHIP is set to expire Sunday, but it will likely be temporarily extended if an agreement can’t be reached. The 10-year-old program is popular on both sides of the aisle, but President Bush and many Republicans say the House bill will cost too much and extend eligibility beyond poor children. Democrats, including Colorado Rep. Mark Udall, said making sure needy children have health insurance is worth it.

“The President has said that he opposes this expansion because it will open more government-based coverage to middle-income families who can afford insurance,” Udall said in a statement. “I find it strange that this president – who has plunged our federal budget into a sea of red ink and whose administration still cannot account for more than $9 billion in defense contractor fraud in Iraq – should suddenly find his sense of fiscal discipline in order to prevent working families from acquiring health care for children.”

The proposed bill expands funding by $35 billion over ten years and is expected to cover 9.9 million children nationwide, up from the 6 million currently covered. It would be paid for by a 61-cent-a-pack tax increase on cigarettes, a move that is opposed by some Republicans from tobacco states.

President Bush wants to expand funding by $5 billion, a move that would likely drop some currently enrolled children out of the program. The non-partisan Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured estimates an additional $13 billion to $15 billion is needed to maintain current enrollment levels.

Democrats have vowed to continue sending SCHIP legislation to the President.