GOP Children’s Health Care Stopgap Cuts $750M From Public Health Fund

Bill Clark/CQPHO

The proposal Republicans offered to fund for six months a popular child health care program would also cut $750 million from the Affordable Care Act’s public health fund. The $750 million is technically being redirected to community health centers and other programs that have also been running short on funds. Nonetheless, the proposed cuts are prompting pushback from Democrats who have otherwise pressed the GOP to reauthorize funding for the child health care program, the Children’s Health Insurance Programs (also known as CHIP).

While CHIP has broad, bipartisan support, the debate over reauthorizing its funding, which expired at the end of September, has focused on whether that funding needed new offsets.

Democrats have said before that those offsets are unacceptable, and would weaken other programs that serve children, including vaccinations and testing for lead poisoning. States had some backup funds to keep their CHIP operations going after September’s funding lapse. But this week, nearly three months after Congress allowed funding for CHIP to lapse, the program is truly at a crisis point, with nearly two million children set to lose their health insurance in January, according to a new report from Georgetown University.

The proposal released by Republicans Thursday, as they negotiate more broadly a short-term spending package to avert a government shutdown this week, would provide just $2.85 billion to cover the first six months since CHIP’s funding expired on Sept. 30.

The nearly-50-member-strong Congressional Black Caucus released a letter Thursday threatening to vote against the spending bill unless CHIP is fully funded for five years, and said whatever offsets are passed to pay for the bill must not “harm other vulnerable communities,” unlike the GOP proposal, which they dubbed “absurd and offensive.”

Democrats in the Senate are agitating on the issue as well.

“Given the lack of any realistic plan to pass the Dream Act and long-term CHIP funding, it’s my intention to vote against the continuing resolution,” announced Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on Thursday.

Whether Democrats will swallow the short-term CHIP deal with the cuts to other health programs or hold the line and force a shutdown standoff remains to be seen.