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Congress Lets Children’s Healthcare Program Expire, Can They Save It?

by Countable | 10.3.17

What’s the story?

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expired on Saturday without congressional intervention. However, states have enough in their coffers to cover the program for a few months and lawmakers in both the Senate and House are working on bills to keep the program alive. But the House and Senate bills have significant differences, causing advocates to fear the program will fall prey to partisan politics.

Why does it matter?

CHIP provides insurance for children in low to moderate income families who fall above the income guidelines for Medicare, but still struggle with the price of private insurance premiums. It currently provides insurance to 8.9 million children in all 50 states.

States administer the program and provide funds, which the federal government matches. In fiscal year 2017 the federal match totalled $16 billion.

The program was originally the "baby" of Utah Senator Orrin Hatch (R) and Massachusetts late Senator Ted Kennedy (D). The current Senate bill to reauthorize the program, S. 1827, the Keeping Kids’ Insurance Dependable and Secure (KIDS) Act, is being negotiated by the Senate Finance Committee. It was introduced by Hatch and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR).

The KIDS Act would extend federal match funding for CHIP for five years, though a subset of funding added with Obamacare would only get two years of additional funding and then be phased out.

There is also a bill focused on CHIP reauthorization being debated in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. That measure is tied to preliminary funding for relief to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria and proposes to pay for itself through limiting other Obamacare programs.

No Democrats on the committee have signed on to the bill yet, which is scheduled for markup on Wednesday. It would not be surprising if committee Democrats opposed limiting other Obamacare programs to pay for CHIP, but with the inclusion of hurricane relief they may not be able to avoid the bill’s passage.

The House’s CHIP reauthorization bill and Senate’s KIDS Act would have to be reconciled in order save or replace CHIP, and interweaving CHIP with hurricane relief and/or Obamacare funding may only further complicate matters.

What do you think?

Should Congress reauthorize the CHIP program? Should reauthorization be tied to other items? Should the reauthorization be expected to "pay for itself" through limiting other healthcare programs?

Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Creative Commons)

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