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GOP Leaders Draft CHIP Extension Plan

Republican leaders in Congress today issued a discussion draft for legislation to extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which is set to expire at the end of the current fiscal year, Sept. 30.

If the plan becomes legislation, it would join two Democratic bills now under consideration to extend funding for CHIP, which was established in 1997 to provide a coverage option for low-income families that do not qualify for Medicaid. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) authorized CHIP through 2019, but current funding will expire without congressional action.

The Republican discussion draft was released by Senate Finance Committee Chair Sen. Orrin Hatch (UT), House Committee on Energy and Commerce Chair Rep. Fred Upton (MI), and Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chair Rep. Joe Pitts (PA). Among various changes, the plan would give states more flexibility in how they use their federal funds and reduce CHIP funding for families earning more than 250 percent of the federal poverty line. America’s Essential Hospitals continues to review the draft plan.

By contrast, the Democratic bills, both introduced on Feb. 12, would make relatively clean extensions of CHIP. In the Senate, the funding renewal measure is being led by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Debbie Stabenow (D-OH) and Bob Casey (D-PA). The Protecting Our Children’s Health Insurance Program Act of 2015, or PRO-CHIP Act with all 45 Democratic senators in the chamber signed on as original cosponsors. In the House, the CHIP Extension and Improvement Act of 2015 was introduced by Reps. Gene Green (D-TX) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ), the ranking members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health and the full committee, respectively.

The Democratic Senate and House bills are similar, with a few noteworthy differences. The PRO-CHIP Act is considered a straightforward, four-year funding extension, leaving all elements of the program intact under current law. The CHIP Extension and Improvement Act also would extend the program four years, but also includes enhanced pediatric quality measurement. It also would extend the Medicaid primary care payment parity provisions of the ACA, which expired at the end of the 2014 calendar year and had helped many essential hospitals.

America’s Essential Hospitals, as strong proponents of increasing access to affordable health coverage for all, has been a longtime supporter of CHIP and has provided support letters to the lead sponsors of both the Democratic House and Senate bills.

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About the Author

Jocelyn Wiles is the manager of legislative affairs at America's Essential Hospitals.

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