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Monday 24th October 2016

Senators vote on child health bill

22nd July 2007

US lawmakers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a child health insurance programme which aims to give coverage to the nation's children.


The Senate Finance Committee voted 17-4 for a US$35 billion expansion of the programme using revenue from higher tobacco taxes.

The consensus was broadly based across the political parties, with the majority of Republicans on the committee joining all of its Democrats to authorise the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

The programme aims to subsidise insurance for children, and some adults who earn too much to get welfare-linked health benefits, but too little to afford private insurance.

Committee chairman and Democrat Senator Max Baucus said the vast majority of Americans supported the move to extend health care cover to all children.

"There are more kids without health insurance than there are kids in the first and second grades," Baucus said.

The additional funding must still survive the threat of a presidential veto, but Baucus said he believed that if the consensus forged on the committee held, it would garner the 60 votes needed to get through Congress and overcome that threat.

The committee approved additional funding of US$35 billion, to be funded by an increase in tax on cigarettes of 61 US cents a pack. Cigars and chewing tobacco would also be taxed more.

Initially, Democrats on the committee had pushed for an increase of US$50 billion, a figure to which Democrats in the House say they are committted. But some warned the bipartisan consensus could break down if Democrats forced a vote on the higher figure.

Usually, 60 votes are required to overcome potential filibusters in the Senate. Baucus said the committee vote already spoke for itself.

It is hoped the US$35 billion expansion will allow 6.6 million people to maintain their current health coverage, as well as providing coverage for an additional 3.2 million uninsured children.

However, some critics say the legislation raises taxes unnecessarily and does not do enough to target low-income children. 


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