The US House of Representatives passed legislation Friday to continue the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), according to Reuters. The insurance program provides healthcare to low-income children and pregnant women.
Despite the partisan victory in the House, which was approved 242-174 generally along party lines, a fight may lie ahead in the senate. Democrats there have indicated that bipartisan compromise will be necessary to move forward with funding.
For most of its 20 years, CHIP has enjoyed bipartisan approval and a minimum of controversy. Now, Republicans who have failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act as many had promised voters, have added provisions to the CHIP funding bill that would affect the Obama administration’s landmark healthcare achievement. The House bill would cut funding for the ACA’s Prevention and Public Health Fund, which funds “clinical prevention initiatives; research, surveillance and tracking; public health infrastructure; immunizations and screenings; tobacco prevention; and public health workforce and training.” It also helps to fight the opioid drug epidemic currently spreading throughout the US.
The House bill would also make it easier to remove people from ACA plans for non-payment of premiums.
In the Senate, such provisions could represent a significant obstacle. 60 votes are needed to pass the legislation, and Republicans occupy just 52 of the Senate’s 100 seats.
According to Democratic representative Frank Pallone, “This bill is going nowhere … the Senate will not take it up, and we will be waiting around until Christmas.”
However, Republicans, such as Representative Greg Walden, argue that the bill actually blocks Medicaid cuts for hospitals for two years, which would otherwise proceed as part of the ACA.
9 million children get their health insurance from CHIP.
Funding for CHIP expired at the end of September, although many states still have enough money to keep it running into 2018. 11 states, such as California, Utah, Ohio, and Pennsylvania may be out of funding by the end of this year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. An additional 21 states may exhaust their funding by March of next year.
The House bill would fund the program for an additional five years, and would extend funding for community health centers for another two years. The bill also provides 1 billion in funding for Medicaid in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, both of which are recovering from the past hurricane season.