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Oklahoma representatives vote against health care bill for children

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of uninsured children in the nation, but members of the state's congressional delegation still voted against a major expansion of government-funded health care for kids.

Oklahoma's five U.S. House members and two senators provided different reasons for opposing the legislation, which will expand eligibility for the child health insurance program to more families. The measure passed.

Rep. Dan Boren, the only Democrat, cited the bill's proposed increase in cigarette taxes as his reason for voting against the bill.

"While I am very supportive of many of the programs contained in the bill, the expansion of SCHIP is being funded by a regressive tax that places an undue burden on many of the low-income families in eastern Oklahoma."

Freshman Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Okla., called the bill "a poorly disguised step toward socialized medicine." She also criticized cuts to Medicare included in the bill to help pay for the program, The Oklahoman reported from its Washington bureau.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said the bill would "slash funding from popular Medicare programs for the elderly."

The House bill would cut federal subsidies for Medicare Advantage payments, which are for private managed-care plans and average about 12 percent more per beneficiary than traditional Medicare.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a physician, cited a congressional study that shows raising the income limit for eligibility would lead some parents to drop their children from private health plans and enroll them in the government program, which is funded with federal and state money.

Coburn offered an amendment to the Senate bill to make it easier for eligible families to get money from the State Children's Health Insurance Program to pay their private insurance premiums. That amendment failed.

The Senate version of the legislation would increase the federal tax on cigarettes by 61 cents per pack, to $1. The House bill would raise the cigarette tax to 84 cents per pack.

But neither Coburn nor Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., cited the tax hike as the reason for opposing the bill.

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Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com

©2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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