House Passes CHIP Funding, Sends Bill to Uncertain Future in Senate

The House of Representatives passed a bill to fund the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for the next 5 years, but a lack of Democratic support means the bill's future in the Senate is unclear.

A bill to refinance the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which ran out of funding at the end of September, passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 242-174, largely along party lines.

CHIP provides coverage for 8.9 million children, and 11 states have estimated that they will run out of funding for the program by the end of the year. A total of 32 states will have exhausted funds by the end of March 2018, Kaiser Family Foundation reported.

The House bill continues funding CHIP for 5 years, but concerns over how the funding would get paid prevented Democrats from voting for the bill. Representative Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey, warned that the bill would not pass the Senate, which will delay funding for the program even longer.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, chastised House Democrats for not being on board with voting for the bill.

“Caring for children in need goes beyond party lines—it’s unfortunate House Democrats didn’t see it this way today,” he said in a statement.

The House bill also continues funding for community health centers for 2 years and includes money for Medicaid programs in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. However, the bill calls for paying for the funding by taking money from a public health fund created under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The public health fund helps to combat things like the opioid epidemic, Reuters reported.

“It’s hard to stomach that the only way to give [children on CHIP] care is to somehow take it away from somebody else, by cutting public health funds in the midst of an opioid epidemic,” Representative Joe Kennedy III, D-Massachusetts, said on the floor.

The bill now goes to the Senate. A day before the House voted on its bill, The Hill reported that Senate Democrats warned the GOP against cutting the ACA’s public health fund, called the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) to offset funding for CHIP.

“While we strongly support reauthorizing and funding the various healthcare initiatives that have expired or will soon expire, we are concerned about efforts to cut the PPHF to offset the cots of these programs,” the 21 senators wrote. They wrote later in the letter, “Issuing cuts to the PPHF to fund community healthcare programs is a clear example of robbing Peter to pay Paul and will have disastrous effects for the health of children and working families.”

Since the bill cannot be passed through reconciliation, it will need the full 60 votes, requiring at least 8 Democrats vote in favor of the bill.

“I’m proud of the conservative solutions that are prioritized in this bill, and I look forward to the Senate following suit and getting this done,” Ryan said. “The most vulnerable depend on it.”

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