Obama Signs SCHIP Expansion
President Barack Obama has signed legislation expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program and extending it through 2013, providing coverage to 11 million children from lower-income families.
The SCHIP program provides health insurance for children in families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to be able to afford private coverage. The new law covers an additional 4 million children and for the first time allows states to cover children and pregnant women who are legal immigrants. The expansion will be paid for through an increase in the federal tax on cigarettes.
With more and more Americans joining the ranks of the unemployed, many families are finding it harder to maintain health coverage. Insurance is especially crucial for Americans who have diabetes, whose health care costs are twice as high on average as those of people who don't have the disease.
Signing the SCHIP bill into law was for Obama a step toward fulfilling his pledge to provide health care to all children. His campaign platform also proposed an expansion of Medicaid, the government-sponsored health insurance for low-income families.
"This is only the first step," Obama said at Wednesday's bill-signing ceremony. "Because the way I see it, providing coverage to 11 million children … is a down payment on my commitment to cover every single American."
In 2007, former president George W. Bush vetoed two attempts to expand the SCHIP program.