This vote was on an amendment by Wayne Allard, R-Colo., that would allow states to extend eligibility for health care coverage under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) for unborn children and their pregnant mothers.
The SCHIP program – funded primarily through taxes on tobacco products -- helps low income families with children afford health insurance, and currently covers about 6 million kids. The amendment was offered to a bill that would reauthorize SCHIP and expand the program’s funding by about $35 billion over the life of the bill. To offset the cost of expansion, the bill would increase the federal tax on cigarettes by 61 cents, to $1 per pack.
Allard said this language is necessary in order to properly define a pregnant woman, for the purposes of SCHIP, as a woman rather than a child. Allard’s amendment would do this by stipulating that an unborn child can be covered under SCHIP, as well as the child’s mother-to-be.
“Many States’ definition of coverage for pregnant women leads to the strange legal fiction that the adult pregnant woman is a child. Surely it was not the intent of anyone to develop a State Children’s Health Insurance Program to allow a loophole for States to define a woman as a child,” Allard said. “My amendment will also allow for coverage of the mother, whereas the pending legislation only allows for pregnancy-related services. There are many conditions that can affect the mother’s health during pregnancy that are not related to her pregnancy.”
Max Baucus, D-Mont., said Allard’s amendment is little more than an attempt to “inject a very highly contentious abortion rights issue into this children’s health insurance legislation,” and that the protections it purports to offer are not needed. Baucus noted that the underlying bill protects every state’s right to provide health care to pregnant women under SCHIP, including their unborn children.
By a vote of 49-50, the Senate rejected Allard’s amendment. Of Democrats present, all but five voted against the amendment. Of Republicans present, all but five voted for the amendment. The end result was that the measure went forward without language that would have clarified that states can extend eligibility for coverage under SCHIP to unborn children and their mothers as separate entities.