FACT CHECK: Have Republicans ‘Ignored’ The CHIP Program?
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said Republicans have ignored the expired Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) on “Face The Nation” Sunday.
“The CHIP programs – the Children’s Health Insurance Program – they have ignored the fact that, for three months, the CHIP program for nine million children in this country has not been funded,” Sanders said.
House Republicans passed legislation to fund CHIP in November, and Republicans in the Senate have taken steps to extend the program as well. But there’s disagreement over how to pay for CHIP.
CHIP is a bipartisan program that provides federal funds to states for children’s health coverage. The $15 billion per year program covers almost 9 million children whose families make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private health insurance.
CHIP was due for renewal by Sept. 30, but Congress let the deadline pass while it debated the Graham-Cassidy bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Now Democrats accuse Republicans of neglecting CHIP while Congress works out the details of tax reform and express frustration that Republicans will cut taxes instead of using that revenue to fund the program.
Late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel brought attention to CHIP funding in a monologue last week featuring his eight-month-old son who had just undergone heart surgery, suggesting the program no longer has bipartisan support.
But Republicans still overwhelmingly support CHIP and have taken steps to reauthorize it.
Days after CHIP expired, a bill to fund the program cosponsored by Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah passed the Senate Finance Committee with bipartisan support. But that version didn’t explain how money for CHIP would be offset in the budget. Hatch, who helped create CHIP in 1997, explained the funding concerns on the Senate floor in November.
“We’re going to do CHIP, there’s no question about it in my mind,” said Hatch. “It has got to be done the right way. But we – the reason CHIP is having trouble is because we don’t have money anymore.”
House Republicans passed a different five-year CHIP reauthorization in November, with only 15 Democrats voting in favor of the legislation. The bill would offset the cost of continued CHIP coverage by reducing Medicare premium subsidies for people who earn more than $500,000 per year.
Democrats opposed the bill because it would reduce funding for the Prevention and Public Health Fund, a fund established by Obamacare. It would also shorten the grace period for missed premium payments on Obamacare health plans, which could force thousands off the plans. The House bill has not been introduced in the Senate.
“This is robbing Peter to pay Paul,” said Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone. “Republicans are taking money from the Prevention and Public Health Fund to pay for CHIP and community health centers.”
Republicans took steps to aid CHIP when Congress passed legislation in early December to extend government funding until Dec. 22. The bill included emergency funds for states to ensure CHIP funding lasts until the end of the year.
It is unlikely the House or Senate CHIP reauthorization bills will pass by the end of the year, but the program could be funded on a short-term continuing resolution to fund the government into the new year. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, a Republican, called for CHIP to be included on the continuing resolution.
Without reauthorization, states will quickly run out of funds for the program in 2018, some by the end of January. Some states are preparing notices to families that coverage may be canceled.
Sanders’ office did not respond to a request for comment.
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