It was the last hurdle for children of many low-income families to accessing health care.
The Senate gave its approval Thursday to legislation that will provide health insurance to 11 million youngsters.
Included in the bill was funding to cover legal immigrants, children and pregnant women, to this country- a provision that had been a point of argument between the parties.
The program is known as SCHIP, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and it’s designed to offer coverage to families who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private insurance. The money to fund the plan will come from an additional tax on cigarettes, increasing from 39 cents a pack to one dollar.
Lawmakers voted largely along party lines 66-to-32 to spend an additional $32.8 billion to include another four million children.
President Obama is expected to sign the legislation which was already approved by the House.
President Bush had twice vetoed a similar expansion and agreed to extend the program until March, 2008.
But Barack Obama during his campaign pledged to provide health insurance coverage to every American child. It is estimated that about five million children will still remain uninsured.
Nine GOP senators backed the bill, while in 2007, 18 backed a similar bill, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Republicans largely objected to an expanded role the federal government will play in providing health insurance, especially at a time when more Americans may be moving into the low-income category.
The qualification will vary from state to state, but some will cover children who come from homes with twice the income of the federal poverty level which is $21,200 for a family of four.
Despite President Obama’s pledge to forge bipartisan cooperation out of Washington, some Republican lawmakers objected to the provision that allows some legal immigrants to enroll in the program.
Previously they had to wait five years for coverage, reports the Washington Post.
Republican Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee who had helped craft SCHIP legislation two years ago voice his anger.
"For a guy like me that shed so much blood and took such a hammering from my own party, it's a real disappointment . . . that my side of the aisle is being so ignored," the lawmaker told the Los Angeles Times.
Many predict that the lack of compromise on both sides does not forecast well for bipartisan agreement over revamping the nations’ health care system. #