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Children’s Health Insurance Bill Passes in House, Falls Short for Veto

By Joe Hart

WASHINGTON — A measure related to the one U.S. Rep Frank A. LoBiondo (R-2nd) was in Middle Township last month to advocate fell short Sept. 25 of the two-thirds majority it needed in the House of Representatives to override a promised Presidential veto.
The bill, H.R. 976, would expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which provides coverage to uninsured people, mostly children, throughout the country.
The bill would expand SCHIP for five years at a cost of $35 billion, to be paid for by a 61-cent tax increase on cigarettes. It would also allow for expanded eligibility for children in families that make over 300 percent above the poverty level.
LoBiondo visited the DeVico Senior Center Sept. 12 to lobby support for the House version of the bill, H.R. 2176, the Children’s Health and Medicare Protection Act of 2007 (CHAMP).
That version would also have strengthened Medicare for older Americans, but those provisions were removed as a compromise with the Senate.
The compromised bill passed the House vote 265-159.
According to LoBiondo’s spokesman Jason Galanes, although it passed, the measure fell 19 votes short of a two-thirds majority it needed to be protected from a veto, which President George W. Bush has promised.
LoBiondo was one of 45 Republicans to vote in favor of the SCHIP bill.
He said he’s proud to be a Republican, but votes for his constituents first and with his party second.
Bush has said he opposes the jump in cigarette taxes, increased eligibility and the long-term expansion.
“Congress made a decision to expand eligibility up to $80,000. That’s not the intent of the program,” Bush said. “I believe this is a step towards federalization of healthcare… That’s why I’m going to veto the bill.”
The administration has proposed a $5 billion reauthorization of SCHIP, which officials have said is adequate enough to ensure that all children in families with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty line are enrolled.
NJ FamilyCare is New Jersey’s SCHIP provider. According to its Web site, FamilyCare is for families who do not have available or affordable employer insurance and cannot afford to pay the high cost of private health insurance.
NJ FamilyCare provides coverage to 707,946 people in the state and has received a waiver so it can serve both children (535,893) and adults (172,053).
In this county, 8,621 people are enrolled, 6,180 children and 2,441 adults.
Families in the program that make up to 150 percent above the federal poverty line pay no premiums or copays and those who make up to 350 percent are eligible for coverage with small fees.
Contact Hart at (609) 886-8600 Ext 35 or at: jhart@cmcherald.com

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