President Barack Obama Wednesday signed a $32.8 billion bill to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) for the next five years.
In the past, SCHIP covered approximately 7 million children who parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private insurance.
The final version, which passed the House with a 290-135 vote, will attempt to cover at least 4.1 million additional children, with a 62-cent increae in the federal tax on cigarettes as the primary source of financing for the bill, with proportional increases for other tobacco products.
While the new law boosts the total coverage to about 11 million children under the $25 billion program, it has passed without a funding provision that would have banned physician self-referral to hospitals in which they have an ownership interest.
"We applaud Congress for taking swift action to help millions of children get a healthy start to life," said Rich Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association, who attended the signing ceremony at the White House. "The health of our nation starts with the health of our children. America's hospitals join Congress and President Obama in helping this precious resource grow and thrive."