Before recessing for the holidays, Congress passed legislation keeping the government open and running through January 19. Included in this legislation was 2.85 billion dollars in funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
This patch is sufficient to keep the program up and running through March 31. Twice in 2017, the Advocacy Council and the College signed-on to a letter to Congress supporting the extension of CHIP funding for another five years. CHIP covers roughly 9 million low-income children and pregnant women.
Historically, CHIP has enjoyed strong bipartisan support. Congress – whether controlled by Republicans or Democrats – has never allowed the authorization for funding of the program to lapse since it was created in 1997.
For the first time in 20 years, CHIP has been on the verge of financial collapse in some states because the House and Senate have been unable to come together to reauthorize the funding necessary to keep the program alive. Since September, children and families who rely upon CHIP to pay for health care have been worried about the future of this important program.
Although the House and Senate have been unable to work out a long-term compromise on CHIP reauthorization, the “good news” is that CHIP continues to enjoy strong support among both Republicans and Democrats. The disagreement over reauthorizing CHIP is not about the program per se, but rather how to fund it.
In early November, the House passed a bi-partisan bill – the Championing Healthy Kids Act (H.R. 3922) – which would reauthorize CHIP for five years with increased spending approved for each of those years.
There has been a similar bipartisan spirit in the Senate with respect to support for CHIP. On December 20, the Senate Finance Committee passed their version of the five-year CHIP reauthorization legislation (S.1827, the KIDS Act), approving this bill by a “voice vote.” Senators have objected to the funding method and have suggested “savings” from other programs could be used to offset the cost of the CHIP extension.
It is still expected that a bipartisan solution to reauthorizing CHIP will surface, and, with the new deadline of March 31, Congress has given itself time to work out the funding differences.