Feature

House, Senate committees clear CHIP reauthorization


 

Committees in the House and Senate passed bills to reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program for 5 years, but their efforts took very different paths.

Funding for CHIP expired on Sept. 30, adding a level of urgency for Congress to act.

The Senate Finance Committee needed only a voice vote during an Oct. 4 executive session, with support from both Republicans and Democrats, to move the Keeping Kids Insurance Dependable and Secure (KIDS) Act (S. 1827) to the Senate floor. The Senate version is a straight-forward bill that also extended a few childhood health demonstration projects.

U.S. Capitol Alicia Ault/Frontline Medical News
Work in the House Energy & Commerce Committee, however, was much more contentious and passed by a 28-23 vote along party lines, with Democrats voting against the funding bill. The House version included all the language of the Senate version, but ran afoul of the committee minority due to additional provisions related to funding Medicaid for Puerto Rico, payments for disproportionate share hospitals, and the offsets that would be used to cover the cost of the provisions.

Offsets in the Helping Ensure Access for Little Ones, Toddlers, and Hopeful Young by Keeping Insurance Delivery Stable (HEALTHY KIDS) Act (H.R. 3921) include means testing for Medicare Part B and D premiums by having those earning $500,000 or more on the hook for their entire Medicare Parts B and D premiums, inclusion of lottery and other lump sum awards in making Medicaid determinations, and help for states seeking to get payments from insurers.

In addition to general arguments against the use of offsets for this bill and not other measures that were also marked up during the Oct. 4 session and complaints about the inadequacy of funding for Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program in light of the recent hurricane, Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats also voiced strong objection to the use of means testing for Medicare.

“The way they are put together today will likely mean more delay and possibly no action in Congress until the end of the year as part of an omnibus appropriations bill,” Energy & Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said.

Rep. Frank Pallone
Committee Chairman Greg Waldon (R-Ore.) defended the offsets, claiming the means testing for Medicare Premiums would provide $6 billion, and the inclusion of lottery and other lump sum payments in Medicaid eligibility calculations would generate $400 million in savings.
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