Congress passed Medicare legislation Wednesday that will extend the states’ health insurance program for children through March of 2009. The legislation essentially freezes S-CHIP funding at present levels, and President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law before the weekend. The House approved the Medicare, Medicaid, and S-CHIP Extension Act of 2007 after the Senate passed the measure earlier in the week. Language in the bill will keep S-CHIP funding at about $5 billion for the next five years. Democrats in both chambers had wanted to increase S-CHIP funding to cover more children than are currently allowed under the program — 95% of children in families with incomes up to 250% of the federal poverty level. Critics of expanding S-CHIP maintained that expanding the program to include more children or adults was a misuse of federal funds. Fourteen states provide coverage to those with incomes above 250%, according to a Georgetown University Health Policy Institute report. Another report, issued by the Congressional Research Service, said that without this extension, nine states — Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Rhode Island — were at risk of being left without S-CHIP reserves. Many states may now have to roll back their programs to come in under federal eligibility requirements or fund the added costs with other state funds. The legislation did not address an Aug. 17 letter from the president, which told states they would no longer receive reimbursements for children in families with income more than 250% of the federal poverty level. In response, at least eight states have filed lawsuits.

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