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Groups hail the signing of SCHIP

WASHINGTON (JTA) –Three Jewish organizations hailed President Obama’s signing of legislation reauthorizing and expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the National Council of Jewish Women all praised the signing of the bill, which provides funds to states to insure children whose parents cannot afford private insurance but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.

The legislation expands coverage 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, bringing 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.

President Bush vetoed a similar bill during the last Congress. Bush wanted to roll back certain aspects of the program and said that the expansion would cost too much.

Rabbi Steve Gutow, the JCPA’s executive director, attended the signing ceremony at the White House late Wednesday afternoon. Gutow said it was "remarkable" to celebrate the enactment of an issue he had worked on since he came to JCPA four years ago.

"It was one of those really fine moments," he said. "You could see the smiles inside and outside" of those at the ceremony.

"All of us didn’t understand why this should be complicated," he said. "These were kids who were poor — why would anybody not want them to be covered by health insurance?"

"This is a momentous day for children’s health care," said Rabbi David Saperstein, the Religious Action Center’s director and counsel. "By enacting this SCHIP renewal and expansion, we are investing in America’s future, ensuring that 11 million children, including legal immigrant children, receive the health care they deserve."

NCJW President Nancy Ratzan added in a statement that while the passage of SCHIP reauthorization is "long overdue, it is still but one step toward the ultimate goal of ensuring that all U.S. residents have access to high quality, affordable health care."

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