Making sense of the CHIP controversy
Friday, December 15, 2017
On Dec. 11, late-night host Jimmy Kimmel used his show to offer commentary on the reauthorization of funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program, better known as CHIP. As his son recovers from heart surgery, he used his celebrity platform to bring attention to this well-supported bill.
CHIP is a piece of Medicaid that was introduced in 1997 with bipartisan support during the Bill Clinton administration. The original idea — primarily pushed by late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), was to fund the children's healthcare with money raised from taxes on tobacco products.
The program provides state-based health insurance to children whose families have too much income to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford the cost of insurance. It is estimated that just under 9 million children are covered by the program.
Despite being hugely supported by both parties, the funding for the program expired at the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Efforts to reauthorize the program have been stalled by partisan disputes, and will likely roll into 2018.
In Kimmel's commentary, he discussed how lawmakers were using CHIP as a bargaining chip and placing it on the backburner. However, according to The Washington Post fact-checking article, these are the usual year-end negotiations for Congress. The article also points out that "the GOP-led House of Representatives on Nov. 3 passed a CHIP reauthorization bill by a vote of 242-174, with most Democrats voting against it because of funding offsets."
Kimmel also alludes to the fact that the CHIP negotiations are being tied into the tax reform initiatives, but this is not the case either as they are unrelated to the funding of CHIP.
Despite all the attention and concern over funding reauthorization, states may continue to spend unspent 2017 allotments and unused funds from previous years. As of now, three states and the District of Columbia are projected to exhaust their funds by Dec. 31. More than half of the remaining states will run out of funds in fiscal year 2018 if funding is not set by the end of March, giving lawmakers little time to come up with reasonable solutions to continue to fund the program.
In the stopgap spending bill signed by President Donald Trump, provisions were made to permit the Department of Health and Human Services to shift funds internally to the states whose CHIP programs were running out of money. But many lawmakers were calling for CHIP to be funded with this continuing resolution that will keep the government running until the Dec. 22 deadline.
As with most things in Congress, progress on CHIP is moving exceedingly slow. However, it appears that the CHIP program is certainly high on the list of important funding needs for both parties, which means everyone, including the children and their families, will win in the end.
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