This vote was on an amendment by Jim Bunning, R-Ky., that would prohibit states from receiving State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) funds for covering children of families who earn above 300 percent of the federal poverty level. The amendment was offered to a bill that expands and reauthorizes SCHIP, which offers health insurance for children of families who are too poor to purchase private health insurance, but not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. After Bunning offered his amendment, Max Baucus, D-Mont., made a motion to kill the amendment, which is what this vote was on.
Bunning said many states have done “a good job of keeping the focus of their SCHIP programs on low-income children,” but that others have “expanded their SCHIP programs to cover children in families most of us would not consider low income. Some States are even covering adults, including parents and childless adults. These expansions erode the original intent of the program.”
“The SCHIP bill we are considering today further expands the SCHIP program, including allowing States to cover children in families up to 300 percent of the poverty level. That is $66,000 of income a year for a family of four. Personally, I think 300 percent is too high for SCHIP, and the focus of this reauthorization bill should be reaching those kids who are currently eligible for the program but are not enrolled,” Bunning said.
Democrats argued that this sort of flexibility is necessary particularly for states like New York and New Jersey where costs of living are high.
“New Jersey needs to cover children up to 350 percent because New Jersey families face higher living costs and they get less return on their Federal dollar. Let me talk about that. I hear my colleagues bemoaning the fact that my State allegedly wants some sort of special treatment, that because we want to provide health benefits to children, we are somehow taking advantage of the Federal Government. That is simply ridiculous,” Menendez said. “Let me put it in perspective. For every $1 a New Jersey taxpayer pays in Federal dollars toward the Federal Government, our State only gets back 65 cents. My colleague from Kentucky, who was on the floor and whose amendment we are debating now and who rails about New Jersey—his State gets $1.51 for every $1 Kentuckians send to the Federal Treasury. So they get more back than, in fact, they pay.”
By a vote of 54-44, the motion was adopted. All but three Democrats present voted for the motion to kill the amendment. Every Republican present voted against the motion. The end result is that the motion to defeat Bunning’s amendment carried, Bunning’s amendment was defeated, and the bill went forward without language that would have barred states from receiving SCHIP funds if it would go toward children of families earning more than 300 percent above the federal poverty level.