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Bipartisan Support for CHIP Funding Eroding

About 45 percent of West Virginia children get their health coverage through CHIP. (Pixabay)
About 45 percent of West Virginia children get their health coverage through CHIP. (Pixabay)
November 13, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a bill to refinance the Children's Health Insurance Program, but the funding still is in doubt.

CHIP funding expired Oct. 1, putting the program in jeopardy.

The Republican-sponsored bill that passed the House would balance increased costs by slashing funding for some public health services and denying health care to pregnant women and children while billing issues are resolved.

According Eliot Fishman, senior policy director at Families USA, the bill also would cancel the health insurance if a marketplace premium payment is just one month overdue.

"The estimate is that would cut almost 700,000 people off from insurance every year if they move to that very short grace period before people are cut off," he states.

In the Senate, at least eight Democrats would have to join with the entire Republican majority to approve the measure, making passage of the bill unlikely.

Nationwide, 9 million children get their health insurance through CHIP, including more than 345,000 in West Virginia.

But Fishman notes that time is running out. Since the funding expired, states have been scrambling to keep their programs going, and some will soon be financially unable to do that.

"We'll start to see families getting notices that CHIP enrollment is getting frozen, or that kids with existing coverage will start to get cut off,” he points out. “And those notices are going to start to go out in the first states later in November."

CHIP has enjoyed broad, bipartisan support since it was created in 1997, when Bill Clinton was president and Republicans controlled both the House and Senate.

But current House Republicans insist that any new spending for CHIP must be offset by cost reductions.

Fishman says that standard isn't being applied to the Republican tax cut plan.

"We're talking about trying to cram down these really problematic pay-fors for the Children's Health Insurance Program, while not even bothering to try and fit these giant tax cuts under a deficit-neutral framework," he notes.

Proposed Republican tax cuts would add an estimated $1.5 trillion to the federal budget deficit over 10 years.

Dan Heyman/Cynthia Howard, Public News Service - WV