Guest post by Ben Anderson, Director of Health Policy at Children’s Defense Fund-NY. Here we are 39 days and counting since the September 30th deadline for Congress to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and yet families of the 350,000 New York children who depend on CHIP for coverage are still waiting for Congress to act. Sadly, once again children are being held hostage to political debates.
Created specifically for children, CHIP’s benefits and provider networks are designed to ensure children in working families who are not eligible for Medicaid have access to child-appropriate services, providers, specialists, and facilities. Despite bipartisan support for a strong, five-year extension of CHIP in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, debate continues about how to pay for CHIP and the extension of other important health programs.
Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Championing Healthy Kids Act, a bill that includes the same strong, bipartisan five-year extension of CHIP that the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Finance Committees approved and that most child health advocates strongly support. However, the bill passed by the House pays for the extension of CHIP and other critical health programs for vulnerable populations with offsets that would cause undue harm to children and families. These provisions passed over the objections of many in the House and are jeopardizing the bill’s passage in the Senate.
The sad irony is that Congress is bickering over how to fund CHIP and other programs in the bill, when the total cost for these programs is merely 1% of the amount Congress will add to the deficit to provide tax cuts to the wealthiest individuals in America. The senselessness must end. We’re so close to the finish line. There is bipartisan support for CHIP. Senate and House members, Republicans and Democrats alike, agree on what we need to do for children’s health. Congress needs to finish its homework and reach a bipartisan consensus on funding CHIP.
Yesterday, the House of Representatives adopted a budget resolution that paves the way for the federal government to approve up to $1.5 trillion in tax cuts to wealthy people and corporations with only Republican votes.
What’s a budget resolution?
A budget resolution is a piece of legislation that outlines the congressional budget. It establishes how much the federal government is allowed to spend and in which categories (for example, transportation) and how much they can increase the federal debt or deficit. The resolution can also include budget reconciliation instructions, which allow the House of Representatives and the Senate to pass budget-related measures with fewer votes and without filibusters from opponents.
The budget resolution just passed includes reconciliation instructions, which means that Republicans, who have majorities in both houses, could pass major tax legislation without the support of their democratic colleagues. Democrats who disagree with the tax legislation would also be very limited in their ability to delay or stop the vote.
How is this related to health care?
Any tax cuts will eventually have to be paid for. The budget resolution that ultimately passed did not specify which programs would be cut in order to pay for the tax legislation, but an earlier version of the budget resolution introduced in the House gives us a pretty good idea of what the cuts might look like. This earlier version of the resolution called for $5.8 trillion over 10 years in cuts to programs that help low- and moderate-income families. This included a devastating $1.8 trillion in cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and other health care programs, which would hurt millions of children, families, and seniors.
What does this mean for consumers right now?
Nothing yet. The budget resolution is a set of guidelines. It will not be submitted to the President, and it does not have the force of law. However, Congress is planning on releasing formal tax legislation as early as next week, which if passed by both houses, would affect consumers beginning in 2018.
Check back with HCFANY in the coming weeks for updates on the budget and other federal health care policy issues.
Follow up to “The Future of CHIP in New York” posted on September 19, 2017.
Funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), known as Child Health Plus in New York, expired on September 30. Together, Child Health Plus and Medicaid cover more than 2.6 million children in New York State. New York also has universal health insurance for kids thanks in large part to these two vitally important programs. This delay in CHIP funding renewal puts the health of all of these children at risk. Congress must act now to renew CHIP funding before any child in New York or the nation loses their health coverage.
HCFANY’s Children, Youth, and Families Task Force is circulating an organizational sign-on letter to Congress urging them to renew funding for CHIP for at least five years. You can sign your organization on to the letter here. Sign-ons will be accepted until today, Thursday, October 5, at 5PM.
For more information on why CHIP is so important to New York’s kids, you can view our fact sheet here.
In the midst of the chaos being caused by the most recent effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, there is another very important program at risk: the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CHIP covers more than 9 million children nationwide and more than 630,000 in New York State alone. Without Congressional action, federal funding for CHIP will expire on September 30 of this year. New York will exhaust its share of CHIP funds in March 2018.
But there is some good news! This morning, the Senate Finance Committee released a bill that would extend federal funding for CHIP for an additional five years – through 2022. The bill keeps the additional federal matching funds (or “the 23% bump”) for states through 2019. The bill would also extend other provisions of CHIP such as:
- Child Enrollment Contingency Fund – this is for states that predict a CHIP funding shortfall because of higher than expected enrollment
- Qualifying State Option – this is a rule that allows states to use CHIP funding to pay for the difference between Medicaid and CHIP reimbursement to providers who care for higher-income children in Medicaid expansion versions of CHIP
- Express Lane Eligibility – this option allows states to use eligibility for other public programs to make eligibility determinations for CHIP. This makes it much easier for kids to get covered!
- Affordability Standards – Premiums for CHIP cannot cost more than 5 percent of income for families earning less than 300 % of the Federal Poverty Level
New York’s kids and children across the country who rely on CHIP need this bill to make it across the finish line. Please join HCFANY for a webinar on Thursday, September 21 at 2PM to hear from Judith Arnold, Director, Division of Eligibility and Marketplace Integration at the New York State Department of Health, and some of our advocates here at HCFANY on CHIP, what it means for New York, and how you can get involved.
Check out HCFANY’s latest fact sheet on CHIP here.