Cleveland Plain Dealer: Restore long-term funding for children's health programs

Michael Conroy  AP

It has been more than 100 days since the CHIP program expired on September 30. The CBO estimated the five-year extension Congress is considering now costs only $800 million, down from $8.3 billion, after Republicans repealed the individual mandate in their tax bill.

And CHIP is just one piece of federal health assistance programs aimed at at-risk families and children who need a long-term funding solution. That bill passed 242-174 largely on party lines as Democrats objected to funding offsets, including "cuts to the Prevention and Public Health Fund, Medicare means testing for wealthier seniors, changes to Medicaid third party liability and changes to the grace period for Affordable Care Act plans", according to Boston Children's Hospital.

Funding for CHIP expired more than 100 days ago, after Congress failed to reauthorize the program. John Cornyn of Texas, who is part of the Senate leadership, and Rep. Greg Walden of OR, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee - told reporters Wednesday that they think an agreement is close.

"We really have to hope Congress acts on it, because it's too big a hole for the state to have pick up, " said Flores, chairwoman of the Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee.

Meanwhile, the almost $3 billion for CHIP that Congress passed in December could run out in just a few weeks.

If that accident happened later this year, though, Natali, 50, of Aliquippa, Pa., might be scrambling. A GOP senior aide told Modern Healthcare CHIP is "very likely" to go as a stand-alone next week, with six years of funding appropriated, even as Republicans and Democrats alike say they'd like to pay for 10 years. She can not afford private coverage for her two children on her dental hygienist pay.

Keeping kids healthy should be a top priority, he said.

"While the balance in the redistribution pool may be sufficient to cover February shortfalls enabling all states to cover children through February, it has become increasingly hard to predict how long funds will last for any particular state", the center concluded (PDF).

Ariel Haughton of Pittsburgh said she's upset her federal lawmakers have left CHIP in flux for her two children and millions of kids around the country. These low-income families need assurance CHIP payments will be there in the future.

Congressional leaders are working on a deal to extend the program for five years, possibly as part of a broader agreement to fund the government before a January 19 deadline. I have long supported the CHIP program. Why is health care for our children being disrupted?

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