President Obama today praised the Senate's passage late Thursday of a bill renewing a healthcare program for poor children and expanding it to cover about 4 million more kids.
Commonly known as SCHIP, it now covers about 6.7 million children, including about 100,000 in Massachusetts, Senator John F. Kerry's office said today.
Approved on a 66-32 vote, the bill authorizes spending an additional $32.8 billion over the next 4 1/2 years. The House plans to consider the same bill next week.
Congress passed similar legislation, but President Bush vetoed it, arguing that it was too expensive.
“As the worsening economy causes families to lose their jobs and health insurance, it is vital that we redouble our efforts to ensure that every child in America has access to affordable health care," Obama said in his statement. "That is why I am pleased that the Senate has joined the House in passing bipartisan legislation to provide health insurance to children whose families have been hurt most by this downturn. Providing health care to more than ten million children through the Children's Health Insurance Program will serve as a down payment on my commitment to ensure that every American has access to quality, affordable health care.”
Kerry's office said the new version of the bill includes legislation he authored to remove limits on mental healthcare services that he says have prevented some low-income children from getting necessary treatment. Kerry wants to make the coverage of mental health services equal with other medical services.
“It’s about time we take care of our most vulnerable children,” Kerry said in a statement. “America’s kids should be guaranteed comprehensive care whether they need mental health, medical or surgical treatment. Mental illness is a painful struggle, especially for a child. The unfair disparity for treating children is just not acceptable.”
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.