November 03, 2017

House-Passed CHIP Bill Faces Challenges in Senate

By a vote of 242 to 174, the House of Representatives passed legislation on Nov. 3 to provide additional funding for the state Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Feuding between the House Republican majority and Democrats had blocked the bill’s passage, despite otherwise strong bipartisan support for CHIP. This affordable health insurance program jointly funded by states and the federal government covers nine million children of low-income parents who do not qualify for Medicaid. Democrats accused Republicans of utilizing partisan offsets to cover the cost of extending the CHIP program for five years. As a result, only 15 Democrats voted in favor of H.R. 3922, the Championing Healthy Kids Act.

Funding for CHIP expired on Sep. 30 leaving many states in danger of running out of money to cover associated health care costs for enrollees. In the interim, the federal government continues to disperse unspent money earmarked for the program in previous fiscal years to help cover state budgets.

The blown deadline failed to prompt House Democrats and Republicans to agree on offsets to continue this vital program. Absent a bipartisan consensus, H.R. 3922 covers the costs associated with CHIP reauthorization by reducing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (PPACA) Prevention and Public Health by $10.5 billion, barring lottery winners from receiving Medicaid benefits, and shortening the grace period in which PPACA enrollees can miss premium payments before they lose insurance coverage.

The Senate Finance Committee is still actively pursuing a bipartisan agreement on changes to federal law that will free up enough resources to cover the cost of CHIP reauthorization. Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) both support extending CHIP for five years, but they’re wary of the House offsets for fear that it will reignite the contentious debate pertaining to repealing and replacing PPACA.

The American College of Radiology is pleased that H.R. 3922 does not include any changes to diagnostic imaging reimbursement. The College, however, does not expect the current structure of the Championing Healthy Kids Act to pass the Senate. The ACR’s government relations office will continue to monitor changes to the offsets included in H.R. 3922 and is prepared to oppose any efforts to enact site neutral payments to finance a CHIP extension. The College anticipates that legislation reauthorizing CHIP will probably be included in a forthcoming bill addressing numerous, disparate outstanding policy issues ultimately passed at the end of 2017.