House Passes Children's Health Bill

(AP / CBS)
The House of Representatives has approved a bill to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, that will extend government health care to 4 million additional children.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law later today.

The bill passed 290-135, with the backing of 40 Republicans. If and when it is signed by the president, an additional $32.8 billion will be allocated to the program. Seven million children are currently enrolled.

When the bill got through the Senate last week, the president said that with families losing jobs and health insurance in a worsening economy,"it is vital that we redouble our efforts to ensure that every child in America has access to affordable health care."

SCHIP is designed to give health insurance to children whose families make too much to qualify for Medicaid but for whom paying for private insurance is a major burden.

The money for expanding the program comes from a planned 62-cent-per-pack increase in the federal tax on cigarettes.

President Bush twice vetoed SCHIP legislation. Opponents say it means an unnecessary extension of government insurance to families that could afford private health care. They also worry that it is the first step towards socialized health insurance.

"The Democrats continue to push their government-run health care agenda – universal coverage as they call it," Republican Rep. Pete Sessions said, according to the Associated Press.