Congress stalls on children’s health insurance program

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According to the New York Times, the Senate was able to move quickly on legislation to protect the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), but the House stalled on the bill due to partisan infighting.

CHIP’s funding expired at the end of September, and officials in some states said they will soon have to inform families that their children may lose coverage.

Congress does not currently have a timeline for resolving CHIP’s lack of funding.

In the Senate, a bill that funded the program for five years at a cost of over $100 billion easily passed the Finance Committee via voice vote.

Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) wrote the bill with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Senator Hatch created the CHIP program with the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.)

However, the House Energy and Commerce Committee had a more difficult time moving on its companion bill. Democrats objected to Republicans taking money for CHIP from Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. The bill eventually passed the committee, but all Democrats voted against it.

One proviso in the bill would require seniors who make more than $500,000 a year to pay more for Medicare. Another proviso would allow states to revoke Medicaid coverage for otherwise low-income people who win lotteries.

Wealthier seniors already pay more money for Medicare. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) summarized her party’s position when she described the proviso as “a first step in eroding a social insurance program.”

Democrats claim Republicans have no business cutting Medicare and Medicaid services while they are working on a tax reform package that will benefit the wealthiest Americans and increase deficits.

Three states are expected to run out of CHIP funds by the end of 2017, and 27 more states are forecast to run out by March 2018. Senators from both parties have urged Congress to act as quickly as possible.