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February 4, 2009

Reauthorization of SCHIP Program Expands Reach to Include Nearly 1 Million New York Children

Rep. Velázquez: Coverage Ensures a Healthy Future for the Nation

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) today voted to approve the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act that will provide nearly 1 million uninsured children in New York with access to health care.   The bill, similar to a version that was vetoed by President Bush twice, was passed this afternoon by the U.S. House of Representatives and is expected to be signed into law by President Barack Obama shortly after.

“Every person deserves the right to high-quality, affordable health care, and this bill will help thousands of New York’s children receive just that,” said Congresswoman Velázquez.  “Healthy children are more likely to do well in school and have fewer medical problems as they get older, giving them a greater chance to succeed and more opportunities for a better future.”

The bill authorizes the continuation of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) for an additional 10 years.  Begun in 1997, SCHIP covers more than 7 million children nationwide from working families with incomes that are too high to qualify for Medicaid but too low to make private insurance affordable. Over 650,000 New York children are currently enrolled in the program, and the passage of this legislation will give an additional 267,000 an opportunity to join.  The reauthorization includes a new state option to cover pregnant women and eliminates the current five-year waiting period before legal immigrants are eligible for coverage.

“With medical costs rising at an alarming rate and health plans becoming unaffordable for many hard-working families, it is vital that we protect our most vulnerable populations,” said Congresswoman Velázquez.  “The reauthorization of SCHIP means that parents will not have to sacrifice medical care for their children in exchange for affording their families’ daily essentials.”

The expansion of SCHIP will be fully-funded by a 61-cent increase in the cigarette tax to $1 per pack, which will also have the benefit of discouraging children from smoking.  The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids estimates a 61-cent increase in the tobacco tax will stop 1,873,000 children from taking up smoking.

“This legislation will ease the burden on New York’s already strained budget,” said Congresswoman Velázquez. “By funding the program with an increase in the cigarette tax, we can protect children from the dangers of smoking and save taxpayers from covering expensive medical costs down the line.”