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GOP includes $2.8B for children's health-care funding in stopgap bill

GOP includes $2.8B for children's health-care funding in stopgap bill
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House Republicans have included $2.85 billion to extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in a stopgap spending measure intended to prevent a government shutdown on Saturday.

The funding provides money for CHIP through the end of March as the GOP faces criticism from Democrats, who argued Republicans were prepared to leave town without extending a program that provides support for 9 million children across the country.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has been giving states unused funds to help them keep their CHIP benefits afloat. Some states have sent letters or posted notices on their website warning families that, without new funding from Congress, their CHIP benefits could go away at the end of January.

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The funding uncertainty has also impacted community health centers, some of which have instituted hiring freezes and run into trouble retaining and recruiting new staff.

The bill also gives $550 million to community health centers — which provide comprehensive care to roughly 27 million of the nation’s most vulnerable — and extends other public health programs through March.

This legislation redirects $750 million from ObamaCare’s public health and prevention fund to pay for this extension, which House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiGOP pollster: Republicans may hold on to the House in midterms Bloomberg visits New Hampshire, fueling 2020 speculation The Memo: Rust Belt race hinges on Trump MORE (D-Calif.) said Democrats would oppose at a House Rules Committee hearing Thursday morning.

She added that she is “disappointed” in the move since there are ongoing talks about bipartisan offsets.

Democrats had been hammering Republicans for passing their sweeping tax-cut legislation while CHIP remained in limbo, arguing it would leave millions of families who depend upon the program uncertain over their future at the holidays.

Children’s advocates and state officials have been urging Congress to pass a five-year reauthorization of the program.

Lawmakers are scrambling to pass a bill to keep the government funded through Jan. 19. Without a new funding bill, the government would shut down on Saturday.

Some activists expressed frustration that the full reauthorization likely won’t come by the end of the year.

“For the families and nearly 9 million children who rely on CHIP for their health care, this is highly disappointing,” Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus, a children and families health advocacy group, wrote in an email.

“This action highlights Congress’ continued inability and failure to prioritize and protect the health of children and a very popular and successful program. It needlessly leaves states and families in limbo, which is unacceptable. This may go down as the worst year for children in Congress in decades.”

The House passed a partisan bill to reauthorize CHIP and community health centers earlier this year, but Democrats derided how the GOP planned to pay for the measure. 

Peter Sullivan contributed.