Skip to main content

Advanced Search

Advanced Search

Current Filters

Filter your query

Publication Types



Newsletter Article


Straight Extension of Children's Health Program Likely

By Alex Wayne, CQ Staff

December 5, 2007 -- Prospects for a breakthrough agreement on expanding a popular children's health insurance program look bleak, and lawmakers now expect Congress to pass a long-term extension of the program instead.

House Republican Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said Wednesday that he expected an extension of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) would be passed before Congress adjourns for the year. He said Republicans would support the inclusion of extra money to help states facing shortfalls in their programs

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has given congressional negotiators until the end of this week to reach a deal on an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). But there are no bipartisan talks scheduled between lawmakers, and House Republicans complain that Democrats have not made a counter-offer to their Nov. 15 proposal.

"How do you set a deadline that everything's off if you don't respond to the proposal that's on the table?" Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Ga., one of the authors of the Nov. 15 proposal, asked Wednesday.

Democrats were outraged by that proposal because it included a cap on income eligibility for Medicaid, a separate and much larger federal-state health insurance program for the poor.
Sens. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, and Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, who have worked closely with Democrats on the children's health legislation, have made their own counter-offer to House Republicans, but it is not clear whether the Grassley-Hatch offer is backed by Democrats.

Regardless, some House Republicans were unimpressed with the changes Grassley and Hatch proposed.

"I thought all of them were really very, very difficult to accept," Deal said. "They watered down every one of the major issues."

A small group of House Republicans, led by Blunt, met briefly Tuesday morning to review the Grassley–Hatch proposal, Deal said. But even in that their group, he said, there was no clear agreement. "I think the consensus was the donuts were okay and the coffee was fine," he joked.

Democrats have been in intense negotiations for more than a month with House Republicans over an expansion of SCHIP. The program is a priority for Democrats, who want to expand it by about $35 billion over the next five years, to $60 billion—enough, they say, to cover 10 million children. The program currently covers about 6 million children.

But Republicans say they will not support an expansion unless it focuses on enrolling children from families earning less than twice the poverty level&#8212about $41,000 for a family of four&#8212and includes strong prohibitions against enrollment of any adults or illegal immigrants in the program.

Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, said Wednesday that "there continue to be meetings at the staff level" on the bill. But he said he did not know whether an agreement would result.

Edward Epstein contributed to this report.

Publication Details