From: Reuters
Published September 21, 2007 05:28 PM

Lawmakers in agreement on kids' health bill


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. congressional leaders on Friday said they reached agreement on legislation to expand a health-care program for children in low-income families, setting up a potential showdown with President George W. Bush who has vowed to veto it.

The bill would add $35 billion over five years to provide health care for as many as 10 million children in need of health insurance coverage. It also would provide coverage for pregnant women and new dental-care benefits.

The children's health insurance program aims to help children in working families who cannot afford private health insurance but who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.

Bush said on Thursday he would veto the bill, calling it a first step toward government-run health care. He has asked to increase funding for the program by $5 billion over the current $25 billion funding level for five years.

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Bush's veto threat drew strong criticism from Democrats and angered some of his fellow Republicans who said the president's request was not enough to meet the need.

The agreement reached between leaders in the Senate and the House of Representatives would raise taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products to increase funding for the children's health program. The bill has strong bipartisan support but it is unclear whether there are sufficient votes in both chambers to override a presidential veto.

About 6.6 million children currently are enrolled in the program, which is set to expire September 30 if the new authorization fails to be signed into law. The House and Senate are expected to take up the bill next week.

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