Congress funds children's health program after four-month delay

Congress funds children's health program after four-month delay
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Months-long uncertainty over the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) ended Monday after Congress passed a six-year reauthorization of the program.

CHIP expired Sept. 30, but states have been using unused money from last year to keep their programs going.

Still, advocates argued that the uncertainty was damaging for families and state governments.

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"This action ends months of anxiety and worry for the hard-working families who rely on CHIP for life-saving health care," said Frederick Isasi, executive director of Families USA, a health-care advocacy group in Washington, D.C. 

"States — some of which had already sent notices to families warning of looming CHIP enrollment freezes — can now set about restoring trust that CHIP will be there for kids and their families." 

Reauthorization of the program that covers 9 million low-income children has passed with little controversy in past years, but this time around, Democrats and Republicans could not agree on how to pay for it.

While House Republicans passed a CHIP funding bill in November, Democrats voted against it and the Senate ignored it. 

The two parties squabbled over the program in the past week, with Republicans attaching CHIP to a short-term spending bill to get Democratic support. 

That backfired when the bill couldn't get enough votes in the Senate, however, resulting in a three-day government shutdown.

But both parties came to an agreement Monday to fund the government through Feb. 8 and reauthorize CHIP for six years, ending a 114-day lapse.

The issue of CHIP funding has been high-profile in recent months, with Jimmy Kimmel blasting Congress multiple times on his late-night show for its handling of the program.