Washington Making a down payment on President-elect Barack Obama’s promise of universal health coverage, the House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to expand government-sponsored insurance to 4 million more children in working families with income too high to qualify for Medicaid.
Between 300,000 and 600,000 of the new enrollees could be noncitizen children of legal immigrants who have been in the country less than five years, a sticking point for some Senate Republicans who also will consider a similar bill.
Obama said he hoped the Senate acts with the “same sense of urgency so that it can be one of the first measures I sign into law when I am president.”
“In this moment of crisis, ensuring that every child in America has access to affordable health care is not just good economic policy, but a moral obligation we hold as parents and citizens,” he said.
Forty Republicans joined Democrats in passing the bill 289-139. Congress passed similar legislation in 2007, but it was vetoed both times by departing President George W. Bush.
The bill would raise the federal excise tax on cigarettes by 61 cents to $1 a pack to pay for the $32.3 billion cost of expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program for the next 4 1/2 years.