WASHINGTON - In a bipartisan spirit not often
seen on Capitol Hill, Reps. Rahm Emanuel, a
Chicago Democrat, and Ray LaHood, a Peoria
Republican, have joined forces to help states,
including Illinois, provide health-care coverage
to more uninsured children of working-poor
LaHood and Emanuel are part of a bipartisan
campaign to reauthorize and substantially expand
a federal program called State Children's Health
Insurance Program, or SCHIP. The program will
expire Sept. 30 if Congress doesn't reauthorize
it. The group is seeking $60 billion over five
years for the program.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., will sponsor a
similar bill in the Senate, Emanuel said.
The federal program sends between $225
million and $321 million a year to Illinois for
the state's "All Kids" program, allowing about
156,300 low-income children and 125,655 parents
to be covered. The program is aimed at helping
children whose working parents make too much to
qualify for Medicaid, but who can't afford to
purchase health insurance on their own.
Emanuel and Durbin introduced similar bills
last year when Republicans controlled Congress.
But the legislation stands a greater chance this
year, with Durbin as Senate majority whip and
Emanuel as House Democratic Caucus chairman.
"Elections make a difference. I doubt if we
(Republicans) were the majority party that we
would be standing up here today," LaHood said at
a Capitol Hill press conference that the
sponsors held Friday.
The presidential campaign is drawing more
attention to the issue.
After Iraq, LaHood said, "the single most
important issue that presidential candidates
talk about is health care."
LaHood said his daughter and son-in-law, both
doctors at a medical clinic in Indianapolis
serving a large Hispanic population, see the
need for an expansion of the program.
"I'm going to be proud to call her today," he
In his fiscal 2008 budget request to
Congress, President Bush proposed a $5 billion
increase over five years, but critics have said
that would not pay for those currently enrolled.
Emanuel's plan to provide $60 billion over
five years would cover the estimated 6.8 million
children who are eligible but not enrolled in
SCHIP or Medicaid. The $60 billion includes $10
billion to provide a new tax credit that
low-income working families, who don't qualify
for the program, can use to buy health insurance
through an employer-sponsored plan or a state
plan such as SCHIP. The tax credit is aimed at
providing insurance for an additional 2.2
The bill also would give states a financial
incentive to streamline their enrollment
process. For example, the bill requires, among
other things, that children who have qualified
for other means-tested programs such as food
stamps or school lunches would automatically be
considered eligible for Medicaid or SCHIP.
Emanuel said the plan would be paid for by
reducing the capital gains "tax gap" that
taxpayers owe the government but don't pay. The
bill's supporters back another bipartisan bill
that would require increased reporting of
capital gains by the securities industry.
For Emanuel, the bill is an extension of his
prior work at the Clinton White House, where he
helped negotiate a deal with the Republican
Congress that created SCHIPs in 1997.
The bill also has the backing of a wide range
of groups including America's Health Insurance
Plans, the American Medical Association, Blue
Cross Blue Shield and Families USA, a health
care advocacy group.
Dori Meinert can be reached at 202-737-7686