On February 4, 2009 President Obama signed into law H.R.2 which expands and reauthorizes the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. The bill reauthorizes the program for another 4 and a half years and covers an additional 4 million children. The bill was one of the first pieces of legislation to be tackled in the new session, and marks the first step to nationwide health care reform promised by President Obama during the campaign.
The program is designed to provide health coverage for children of households that do not qualify for Medicaid but do not make enough to pay for insurance. The previous maximum qualifying income was 200 percent the poverty level, with some variation between states. In the new legislation, the maximum level is extended to people with incomes 300 percent the poverty level. In addition, children of illegal immigrants no longer have to wait five years in order to qualify for health coverage. Spending on the program will increase by $32.8 billion during the next four and a half years and increasing coverage from over 6 million children to almost 11 million. SCHIP will be up for reauthorization again in 2013.