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Yesterday, the House passed a bill to expand the children’s health insurance program. The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (or SCHIP) is a federal program that gives funds to the states to provide health insurance to families with children. The program was designed for low income families that do not qualify for Medicaid. The House vote was 289 to 139.justabill.jpg

Similar legislation has been vetoed before by the Bush Administration but the bill that was passed yesterday would extend to cover more than 4 million uninsured children.  The bill includes an additional $33 billion to be spent to insure children over the next 4 ½ years.

President-elect Barack Obama stated after the legislation was passed:

In this moment of crisis, ensuring that every child in America has access to affordable health care is not just good economic policy, but a moral obligation we hold as parents and citizens. That is why I’m so pleased that Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives came together to provide health insurance to over ten million children whose families have been hurt most by this downturn. This coverage is critical, it is fully paid for, and I hope that the Senate acts with the same sense of urgency so that it can be one of the first measures I sign into law when I am President.

The bill would be financed by an increase in tobacco taxes, including a 61-cent increase in the tax on cigarettes, to $1 pack.

Democrats believe that the current economic state of the country calls for the expansion of children’s health insurance. Many people have lost their jobs this year, and the number of unemployed has increased by 50% since last year. When people lose their jobs, they lose their health insurance which therefore means their children don’t have health insurance.

“At a time of rising unemployment, this legislation is more important than ever,” said Representative Mike McMahon, a Democrat from New York.

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