Four million more U.S. children will be eligible for government-sponsored health coverage under legislation approved Wednesday by the House of Representatives. President Barack Obama signed the measure into law late Wednesday afternoon.
Voting 290-135, the House approved spending an additional $32.8 billion for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), the Associated Press reported. The program, with about 7 million children now enrolled, includes children whose family income is too high for Medicaid but whose families have difficulty affording private insurance.
According to The New York Times, the new law permits states to cover legal immigrants -- among them, children under 21 and pregnant women.
Previously, legal immigrants had been barred from Medicaid and SCHIP for five years after arriving in the United States. The states may now cover those immigrants without the five-year delay, the newspaper said.
The U.S. Senate passed the SCHIP measure last week. To cover adding the additional children, the measure raises federal excise taxes on cigarettes by 62 cents, to $1.01 a pack, the wire service said.
Former President George W. Bush twice vetoed similar legislation.