Lawmakers in both parties say that a long-running disagreement over children’s health funding has almost been resolved and that funding could be passed as soon as next week.
The reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) could be attached to a short-term government funding bill that must pass before Jan. 19, lawmakers say. Whether the reauthorization is ultimately tied to the bill, however, will depend on broader leadership negotiations.
Funding for the program, which covers 9 million children, has been stalled for months amid partisan fighting over how to pay for it.
But the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a new cost estimate this week that now puts the cost of a five-year extension at just $800 million, down from $8 billion.
Finding an agreement on how to pay for that smaller sum won’t be an issue, said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.). “I don’t think that will be a problem.”
He told reporters Wednesday it will be up to leadership, which is negotiating the larger spending package, whether CHIP gets added to a short-term spending bill (known as a continuing resolution) next week, but he said “it could” now that the dispute over how to pay for it is “minimized.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told Texas reporters Wednesday that a five-year CHIP bill is “highly likely to happen on or about the [Jan.] 19 when the current continuing resolution expires,” according to the Dallas Morning News.
The reason for the lower cost is that after Republicans repealed ObamaCare’s individual mandate, premiums are projected to rise for ObamaCare plans. If CHIP were not continued, some children would enroll in ObamaCare plans, which is now a more expensive option, making CHIP cheaper by comparison.
In fact, a 10-year CHIP extension would actually save money, $6 billion, according to CBO.
Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on Energy and Commerce, is calling for a permanent extension.
But Walden said 10 years might be too long.
“Ten years is a long extension for something that important,” he said.
Asked about adding the CHIP funding to the funding bill next week, Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) said, “I think it will be now that we know it doesn’t cost much.”