July 13, 2007
CIG TAX KIDS FIX
61 cents more a pack to cover two million kids
Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee have worked out a deal to fund a $35 billion expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) through a 156 percent increase in tobacco taxes. The bill will be marked up in committee next Tuesday.
S-CHIP now covers about 4.1 million low and moderate-income children across the U.S., and the new expansion will allow about two million uninsured kids to get health care through the federally funded, state-run program.
Children's and health care advocates had sought $50 billion program expansion, while President Bush has resisted anything much over $5 billion in new funding (which would actually lead to 1.4 million kids and pregnant women losing coverage, because of increased medical costs and decreased state allocations).
Bush has threatened to veto an S-CHIP expansion but was quickly slapped down by Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus and by Republican Senators Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch, Republican bigwigs on Senate Finance. The rapid bipartisan response suggests a veto override might be readily achievable.
S-CHIP is the big game in federal health care legislation this year. Advocates and insiders expect a number of unrelated health initiatives to be part of the final S-CHIP reauthorization package—and the Early Treatment for HIV Act (ETHA) could be one of them.
"We're focused on getting ETHA introduced with the strongest possible support, passed and signed into law," said Robert Greenwald of the Treatment Access Expansion Project (TAEP). "But we're mindful of the fact that S-CHIP is the sun around which health care expansions are orbiting this year. If we have a chance to get ETHA into the mix, we're going to take it."
It'll take weeks, or even months, to move the final S-CHIP bill through both houses of Congress, and there's a chance for additional measures like ETHA to be added each step along the way. We'll keep you posted on the progress — and we'll let you know how you can help crack things open for kids and for people living with HIV/AIDS.