Jewish groups urge Senate to pass SCHIP

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A number of Jewish organizations are urging the U.S. Senate to follow the House’s lead and pass an expansion of a children’s health care program.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the National Council of Jewish Women hailed the House of Representatives’ passage Wednesday of legislation reauthorizing the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. The program provides funds to states to insure children whose parents cannot afford private insurance but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.

In the House-passed legislation, coverage would be expanded to an additional 4.1 million children by making families whose income is as much as 300 percent of the poverty level eligible for the program. That would bring the total insured by the program to about 11 million children.

The legislation also waives the five-year waiting period for legal immigrant children and pregnant women.

The Senate Finance Commitee is considering the bill this week. Both houses passed SCHIP legislation in the last Congress but President Bush vetoed it, saying that expanding the program would open up "an avenue for people to switch from private insurance to the government." Obama backs the bill.

“It is not only a Jewish but universal value to protect our children from sickness and harm,” said Andrea Weinstein, chair of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. “In these tough economic times, it is more important than ever that we redouble efforts to care for our nation’s most precious resources: its children."

"After President Bush’s disappointing vetoes of similar bills last year, we are pleased to see this vigorous effort to enact the legislation so early in the new Congress and before the program is set to expire in March," said Rabbi David Saperstein, the director of the Religious Action Center. "Families who rely on SCHIP for their children’s health care deserve the security of knowing that the program will continue."

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