The State Children Health Insurance Programs, popularly known as SCHIPs, ends March 31st. Last year the House and Senate had sent two bills to President George W. Bush, renewing the program. He vetoed them, arguing that the program should not be extended to middle class children so long as it has not reached all the poor children for which the program was originally intended. A legitimate argument, but in the politics of health care is was a smoke-screen for less coverage even to the poor. The high-income states had asked for the extension because many middle class families were losing their health insurance.
The Obama administration is expected to sign bills similar to last years, but the issue now has become extending coverage to legal immigrant children. Most social services like Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid is denied by law to immigrants for the first five years. That includes eligibility for immigrant children in SCIPs. The new law would continue to deny coverage to undocumented immigrant children, though some states can and do use other funds. But Republicans are expected to argue that the undocumented would sneak in. This is not a quibble -- 400,000 to 600,000 children will be affected. The bill should sail through the House, but might have a more difficult time in Senate. (See New York Times article.)
DON'T DELAY IMMIGRATION REFORM BECAUSE OF THE ECONOMY
The New York Times argues editorially that president-elect Barack Obama should not put comprehensive immigration reform on the "back burner" till he deals with the economy. The Times notes that suffering of immigrant families continues and ought to be immediately addressed, but reform can also help the economy by turning our resource to where they are needed.