Advocates: Don't turn children's insurance into Medicare bargaining chip

A children’s advocacy group wants Congress to promise four years of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) instead of settling for a two-year compromise.

House leaders have been mulling a two-year extension of CHIP as part of a major deal on Medicare’s “doc fix.”

The proposal, which has yet to be officially unveiled, would lift the much-maligned formula known as the sustainable growth rate (SGR).  

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But First Focus, a nonprofit advocating for children’s issues, argues that the deal could mean replacing a “SGR funding cliff” with a “CHIP funding cliff” that puts millions of children at risk because they won’t have healthcare.

“We do not support CHIP being 'SGR’d' in a package where Congress is fixing that very problem in Medicare with a long-term or permanent fix,” Bruce Lesley, the president of First Focus, wrote to the House and Senate leadership.

The advocacy also compiled letters to Congress from 42 governors who have also urged for more CHIP funding. The vast majority of state leaders called for at least a four-year extension — including conservatives.

The children's health funding has been a bargaining chip from Democrats, most of whom have supported a four-year extension. Republicans have insisted on a shorter-term extension that would allow lawmakers to reevaluate the program on a more regular basis.

“To ensure that children are not left worse off, action on CHIP is needed as soon as possible,” First Focus writes.