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DeLauro Joins the President for SCHIP Bill Signing

February 4, 2009
Press Release

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (Conn. -3) joined President Barack Obama at the White House for the signing of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization bill (H.R. 2), which would reauthorize the popular program for the next four and a half years, through 2013. The bipartisan legislation renews and improves SCHIP, providing health care coverage for 11 million children – preserving coverage for the roughly 7 million children currently covered by SCHIP and extending coverage to 4.1 million uninsured children who are currently eligible for, but not enrolled in, SCHIP and Medicaid.

The House reaffirmed its support of the legislation by a bipartisan vote of 290-135. While the Senate-passed bill closely follows the House bill, it makes only a few minor changes such as adding an option for states to provide dental-only coverage for children who are otherwise insured. The House had previously passed H.R. 2 by a bipartisan vote of 289-139 on 14 January 2009.

“I was thrilled to go to the White House to watch as President Obama signed into law legislation that will provide critical health care coverage for 11 million children under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program,” said DeLauro. “SCHIP is about recognizing and embracing our nation’s most serious and constant challenges - challenges that the federal government has the ability, the capacity, the resources, and the moral obligation to help us meet.

“Children are the last people who should be forced to bear the impact of this economy, and we have a moral obligation to take care of them. In this country, where 9 million children are uninsured, we cannot let another day go by without enacting this legislation. Covering more eligible children is not only the right thing to do – it is also more cost-effective for taxpayers than using the emergency room as a primary care provider. And a healthy child is better prepared for learning and success.

“Last week we took steps to close the wage gap between men and women through enactment of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. This week we are taking steps to ensure children across the country have access to affordable health care by renewing the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. This Congress is working with the President to fulfill America’s promise as a place of hope, possibility, and opportunity.”

In addition to ensuring health coverage for 11 million American children by reauthorizing SCHIP for the next four and a half years, through 2013, the bill would:

Improves care and strengthens funding. The bill invests billions in new funding over five years in SCHIP in order to strengthen SCHIP’s financing; increase health care coverage for low-income, uninsured children; and improve the quality of health care children receive.

Provides resources for states to reach uninsured children who are today eligible for SCHIP and Medicaid but not yet enrolled. Two-thirds of uninsured children are currently eligible for coverage through SCHIP or Medicaid – but better outreach and adequate funding are needed to identify and enroll them. This bill gives states the resources and incentives necessary to reach and cover millions of uninsured children who are eligible for, but not enrolled in, SCHIP and Medicaid.

Improves access to prenatal care. The bill provides a new state option to cover pregnant women. Existing options to cover pregnant women through a state waiver or regulation are preserved.

Improves SCHIP benefits – ensuring dental coverage and mental health parity. Under the bill, quality dental coverage will now be provided to all children enrolled in SCHIP. The bill also ensures that states will offer mental health services on par with medical and surgical benefits covered under SCHIP.

Provides a new “dental wrap” benefit under SCHIP. As amended by the Senate, because private insurance coverage of dental care is often limited, states will have a new option to provide dental-only coverage to children who are otherwise insured to ensure access to dental services.

Improves outreach tools to streamline enrollment of eligible children. The bill provides $100 million in grants for new outreach activities to states, local governments, schools, community-based organizations, safety-net providers and others.

Improves the quality of care for low-income children. The bill establishes a new initiative to develop and implement pediatric health quality measures, improve state reporting of quality data, and address childhood obesity.

Is fully paid-for – with an increase in the tobacco tax. The bill increases the federal excise tax on cigarettes by 62 cents a pack – from 39 cents to $1.01 – and also increases taxes on other tobacco products. Raising the tobacco tax discourages children from smoking – and polls show the public supports it as a way to pay for health care. According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an increase of 62-cents-a-pack in the cigarette tax means that nearly 1.9 million fewer children will take up smoking.