A bill to provide health insurance to more than four million uninsured children in the United States was passed by the Senate in a 66 to 32 vote Thursday. It's expected that President Barack Obama will be quick to sign the bill, which advances the goal of providing insurance for all children and eventually all Americans, The New York Times reported.
Two weeks ago, the House passed a nearly identical bill, by a vote of 289 to 139.
Under the bill, states would be able to provide coverage for more than four million uninsured children by 2013, while continuing coverage for seven million children. The increased spending, estimated at more than $32 billion over four and a half years, would be offset by higher tobacco taxes.
The bill is "needed now more than ever," because tens of thousands of children are losing health insurance as their parents lose their jobs, Cindy Mann, executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University, told The Times.
While Democrats support the expansion of the child health program, many Republicans say they're concerned it's part of a long-term campaign to replace private health insurance with government insurance.