Week ahead: Lawmakers near deal on children's health funding

Week ahead: Lawmakers near deal on children's health funding
© Greg Nash

The government is hurtling toward a Friday funding deadline, with important implications for a slew of health-care items.

The coming week could finally see lawmakers agree on extending the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), after months of partisan bickering over how to pay for it.

The breakthrough came when the Congressional Budget Office drastically lowered its cost estimate for the measure, so that it will actually save money if extended for long enough.

"If we go to six years, it may have no cost," House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenHillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Wyden asks NSA to investigate White House cybersecurity | Commerce withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon objects | Warren calls on Brazil to drop Greenwald charges Bipartisan lawmakers call for watchdog probe into government telecom office Conservative groups aim to sink bipartisan fix to 'surprise' medical bills MORE (R-Ore.) told reporters Wednesday. "The good news is you can do six years and it costs you nothing."

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Members in both parties say that change means the extension could move next week, though it depends on broader leadership negotiations over a spending package. There is still some uncertainty over what legislation CHIP reauthorization will be attached to and how long the extension will be.

Walden has proposed a six-year extension, while Democrats are pushing for a longer period, even floating a permanent extension.

Other health-care issues are more contentious.

Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderBolton upends Trump impeachment trial  McConnell urges GOP senators to keep powder dry on witness question Murkowski 'curious' to hear what Bolton has to say MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: Trump becomes first sitting president to attend March for Life | Officials confirm second US case of coronavirus | Trump officials threaten California funding over abortion law Top health officials brief senators on coronavirus as infections spread Administration to give Senate briefing on coronavirus MORE (D-Wash.) are pushing ahead with talks on their bipartisan bill aimed at stabilizing ObamaCare markets.

Murray is pushing for changes now that Republicans have repealed ObamaCare's individual mandate, but has not detailed what those are.

The measure is not expected to be attached to a short-term spending bill next week, but Alexander is pushing for it to be attached to a long-term funding bill once a deal is reached on that.

Industry groups are pushing for repeal or delay of ObamaCare taxes, such as the health insurance tax, medical device tax and "Cadillac tax" on high-cost insurance plans.

It is possible those measures could be added to a funding bill as well as lawmakers work to reach a deal.

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