Republicans unveil funding plan with children's program to get Democrats' votes
- Republicans proposed a six-year extension of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) as part of a funding bill to avoid a government shutdown.
- They hope Democrats will support the bill since long-term funding for CHIP is included.
- Democrats and Republicans have been at odds in recent months over how to pay for the vital health program, even though both parties overwhelmingly support it.
House Republicans unveiled a short-term funding plan on Tuesday to keep the government running past the end of this week, and they're hoping it contains enough leverage to get Democrats to sign on to the deal.
At the heart of the proposal is the popular Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides coverage for nearly nine million children and pregnant women across the US.
A CHIP extension has stalled in Congress since federal funding for the program expired September 30. Republicans and Democrats overwhelmingly support the program, but they have been at odds over how to pay for it.
The latest continuing resolution includes funding for CHIP for six years, but does not include a codification of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program. This could derail the bill since Democrats have insisted that any funding bill include protections for the roughly 800,000 DACA recipients.
"We want to keep the government open," Rep. Steny Hoyer, the Democratic whip, told reporters on Tuesday. "But we're not going to be held hostage to do things that we think are contrary to the best interests of the American people."
Congress gets a lifeline
Last week, the Congressional Budget Office granted lawmakers a lifeline after months of deadlock in Congress over long-term funding for CHIP.
In a letter to Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., office director Keith Hall said CHIP reauthorization would save the government $6 billion over a 10-year period.
That was a surprising reversal from an earlier projection. On January 5, the CBO estimated that a similar CHIP extension would actually cost the government $800 million over the next 10 years.
Republicans and Democrats welcomed the news.
Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and longtime champion of CHIP, told Business Insider that the Republican tax law signed by President Donald Trump last month gave Congress the "momentum to push a long-term CHIP extension across the finish line."
“The proof is in the pudding. We must stop holding CHIP hostage and get this important program extended to ensure the families who rely on it get the care they need,” he added.
The CBO previously estimated that the GOP tax law's repeal of the Obama-era individual mandate will encourage parents to shift their children from the marketplace to CHIP, costing the government less overall.
Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden echoed Hatch's comments.
"Big News: extending #CHIP for 10 years would SAVE $6 billion dollars. With this news, securing kids' health care for the long-term should be a no-brainer," he said in a tweet.
Should Congress approve the six-year extension, states will finally enjoy stability after the months-long lapse in funding, Samantha Artiga, a healthcare policy expert, told Business Insider.
"But it's important for states to take action to overcome confusion among families," she added. State officials in a handful of states, including Colorado and Pennsylvania, have sent termination letters to families warning them that their children could lose their healthcare if Congress doesn't restore funding.
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