Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Children's Health Insurance Program extended for six years

After 114 days without a long-term budget, the Children's Health Insurance Program is getting funding for the next six years as a piece of the bill that reopened the government Monday night. The program, which provides health insurance for 9 million American children, 30,000 in Kentucky, has enjoyed broad bipartisan support since its inception in 1997, but has been increasingly employed as a political carrot by Republicans, one which the Democrats refused until today.

"Last fall, Republicans proposed a plan to extend the CHIP program for an additional five years. But that plan included a series of deeply partisan spending cuts to cover the costs of extending CHIP — such as slashing Obamacare programs and Medicare — and Democrats refused to support the bill," Sarah Kliff reports for Vox. States scrambled for emergency funding over the next few months, but Republicans left the program on the back burner in favor of priorities such as repealing and replacing Obamacare, and pushing through a bill cutting taxes.

In its December bill to keep the government open, Congress gave CHIP emergency funding for mid- to late-January, but the two parties still couldn't agree for how to pay for it in the long-term. Republicans wanted states to eventually start paying a greater share of the cost, and Democrats didn't. A Congressional Budget Office estimate ended that debate, saying the elimination of the ACA's individual mandate made it cheaper for states to have CHIP than not.

Republicans added a six-year funding extension for CHIP onto the latest bill to tempt Democrats, who were holding out for action on the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program. Democrats agreed after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would schedule a vote on a DACA bill "and related issues" by Feb. 8 if the government remains open. The Democrats are hoping that, when the funding bill runs out that day, they will have more leverage on DACA without CHIP hanging over their heads, Dylan Scott reports for Vox.

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