SCHIP: Stalled Again

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Even as the Department of Health and Human Services documents a growing demand for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, CQ Politics reports that lawmakers are again squabbling over renewing it:

Senate Republicans have ditched last year’s cooperative tone on an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, accusing Democrats of abandoning bipartisan agreements and threatening to oppose the bill.

“Our Democratic colleagues have gone back on many of the prior agreements that were reached in creating that bill last year, making this issue more contentious than it ought to be and setting a troubling precedent for future discussions on health care reform,” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell , R-Ky., said Tuesday.

Democrats’ SCHIP bill would expand the program by $32.8 billion over four and a half years, providing coverage for some 4 million previously uninsured children, they say.

But the new bill also includes several changes to agreements that Democrats and Republicans hammered out in 2007. Senate Republicans Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, who split with most in their party to support legislation that was twice vetoed by President George W. Bush , protested the changes.

“I’m bitterly disappointed,” said Hatch, adding he wished Democrats had brought back the old legislation. “It represented a compromise, and laid the foundation for bipartisanship and trust,” he said. “The bill being considered this week is not that bill.”

Democrats said the changes they made were needed, and reasonable. They include eliminating a five-year waiting period for new, legal immigrant children and mothers to enroll in the program, slightly loosening identity requirements, and in some cases loosening family income limits on eligibility for SCHIP coverage.