While the Trump administration continues its unrelenting sabotage of “Obamacare,” our do nothing Tea-Publican Congress failed to get around to reauthorizing funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), cutting off federal funding for some 9 million children as of midnight on September 30.
Steve Benen explains, Congress fails to follow through on key children’s health program:
Now that legislating has wrapped up for the month – lawmakers left town yesterday – September wasn’t quite “the month from hell” as originally feared, largely because Democrats and Donald Trump struck a deal to punt questions over government funding and the debt ceiling a few months [until early December].
But perhaps more interesting than what Congress did in September is what it didn’t do. One of the tasks members were supposed to tackle this month was reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and as TPM explained yesterday, that didn’t happen.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who sits on one of the key committees in charge of health care, confirmed to TPM that Congress will likely allow CHIP to lapse by Saturday’s deadline, putting the health insurance of millions of children in jeopardy.
“I’m confident the money will come but obviously it’s not going to come on time,” she said wearily.
Funding for CHIP, which provides health insurance for nearly 9 million children nationwide, expires this Saturday. The Senate Finance committee has worked for months on a bill to reauthorize it for the next five years, but the work was pushed to the back burner as Republicans chose instead to spend weeks taking one last unsuccessfully run at repealing Obamacare.
I’ll confess, when Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) struck a bipartisan deal on Sept. 12 to extend CHIP for five years, I more or less assumed everything would work out. After all, that’s usually what happens: Congress approaches a deadline, some bipartisan pairings work on an agreement, and it passes in the 11th hour.
Except, this time, it didn’t work out at all. Senate Republicans focused their energies on yet another ACA repeal gambit, and reauthorizing CHIP was pushed to the back-burner.
Now, my point is not that 9 million children will lose their coverage over the weekend. If that were poised to happen, you’d probably be hearing a lot more about this. There have been previous instances in which CHIP wasn’t reauthorized in time – if you’ve been reading me forever, you might recall George W. Bush twice vetoed a CHIP bill 10 years ago around this time – without triggering an immediate crisis.
But The New Republic’s Clio Chang wrote a good piece explaining why this shouldn’t be dismissed, either.
[M]ost states have enough funding to maintain the program for a few months. But ten states would run out of funding by the end of the year and Minnesota would run out by the end of October. According to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “When their federal funding runs out, states with separate CHIP programs (rather than CHIP-funded Medicaid expansions for children) may be forced to impose enrollment caps or freezes, or shut their programs entirely.”
Furthermore, there would be numerous adverse consequences that would begin immediately. States would have to start shifting costs to cover administrative tasks necessary for ending the program, such as sending parents notices in the mail. And the lack of assurance that the program will exist in the future makes it impossible for states to budget and plan. Basically, states would have to focus on a variety of things completely unrelated to the program’s intent of expanding access to and improving children’s health care.
Chances are, Congress will circle back to this in the near future, but there’s no good excuse for lawmakers missing this deadline in the first place. The actual reason – Republicans were too busy with a failed attempt to take coverage from millions – only adds insult to injury.
Chang added that this is “the latest evidence that the GOP has become incapable of governing responsibly,” and under the circumstances, it’s hard to imagine anyone seriously arguing otherwise.
One of the reasons this bill was not brought up for a vote is because leadership did not want dead-ender Tea-Publicans to offer amendments to the CHIP authorization bill seeking to repeal “Obamacare” before the reconciliation rules expire on September 30. They would rather let the CHIP funding expire without drawing attention to it, and hope that no one really notices before they can bring up the agreeed upon authorization bill, hopefully before states start running out of funds.
UPDATE: The Arizona Republic reports, Insurance coverage for more than 22,000 low-income Arizona kids in jeopardy:
KidsCare, Arizona’s version of the federal program, covers 22,389 children, according to September figures of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS).
Arizona was the only state without an active CHIP program when Arizona froze enrollment in 2010 due to Great Recession-triggered budget cuts.
The Arizona Legislature last year passed a bill, signed by Gov. Doug Ducey, that allowed new signups. A family of three that earns between $28,180 and $40,840 would be eligible for KidsCare in 2017. Similarly sized families that earn less than $28,180 could still be eligible for Medicaid if KidsCare funding disappeared.
Last year’s legislative action helped lower Arizona’s uninsured rate among children to 7.3 percent in 2016, down 1 percentage point from the year before, according to a report from Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families.
With more than 12,000 Arizona children signing up for KidsCare since December 2016, it’s likely Arizona’s uninsured rate is now even lower.
But the Arizona legislation passed in 2016 required AHCCCS to initiate steps to halt new enrollment if the federal government eliminates funding.
State law requires AHCCCS to notify the governor and state legislative leaders if there is insufficient program funding, and to stop processing new applications.
Arizona should have enough money to cover KidsCare expenses through the end of the calendar year, even if Congress does not extend the CHIP program, said Heidi Capriotti, an AHCCCS public information officer.
But AHCCCS might need to consider other actions should Congress not act in a timely manner, according to Capriotti.
“If federal funding is exhausted, then it would be up to policymakers to decide how to proceed,” Capriotti said.
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The House Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to consider a CHIP bill next week, although details of the legislation have not been released.
U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., sent a letter last month to Speaker Paul Ryan urging swift action by the House on CHIP. U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., and Arizona’s three other House Democrats, Kyrsten Sinema, Ruben Gallego and Raul Grijalva, also signed the letter.
“Our providers and state officials need certainty to effectively plan for providing care to those enrolled and eligible for coverage,” the letter stated. “Parents need peace of mind to make sure their children will not experience disruptions in their health care.”