House GOP Wants To Fund Lapsed CHIP With Cuts To Medicare And Public Health

Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) on a happier day, speaking at President Trump's White House press conference celebrating their passage of an Obamacare repeal law in May 2017. (Photo by Cheriss May/Sipa via AP Image)
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October 3, 2017 10:57 a.m.

Late Monday night, House Republicans unveiled a plan for reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which Congress allowed to lapse this past weekend.

Like its Senate counterpart, the bill lays out five years of CHIP funding, but reduces the amount of federal money going to help states cover low-income children and pregnant women after two years. Unlike the Senate bill, the entire package is funded by cuts to Medicare and the Affordable Care Act’s prevention and public health fund.

The Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee, which marks up the bill on Wednesday, were less than thrilled with the plan.

“The legislation offered last night by Chairman [Greg] Walden is not a bipartisan agreement,” a Democratic aide for the committee said. “We should not be looking simply to make cuts in other health programs to reauthorize this critical legislation.”

The draft bill, posted around 9 p.m. Monday, makes the following cuts and restrictions in order to fund the program:

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  1. Charging seniors who earn more than $500,000 a year higher Medicare premiums.
  2. Allowing states to kick out Medicaid beneficiaries if they win the lottery.
  3. Shortening the grace period for people paying their Obamacare premium payments late
  4. Cutting more than $5 billion from the Affordable Care Act’s prevention and public health fund.

The plan also includes aid to Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program as the island struggles to recover from Hurricane Maria—about $1 billion over two years. But in order to get the bulk of that funding, the island will have to prove to the Fiscal Oversight Board currently ruling over its budget that it has “taken reasonable and appropriate steps during such period to reduce fraud, waste, and abuse … and improve the quality of care and patient experience.”

A Republican aide assured TPM that this funding—a fraction of the $8 billion Congress sent to Texas after Hurricane Harvey—is “solely related to PR’s Medicaid cliff.” Even before Hurricane Maria devastated the island’s health care system, it was on the brink of financial insolvency, one difficult piece of the U.S. territory’s debt crisis.

“There will obviously be disaster specific funds appropriated in another capacity. That’s simply not part of this committee’s jurisdiction,” the aide said.

A memo released by the Republican majority of the Energy and Commerce Committee stressed the importance of passing the bill as quickly as possible.

“Without Congressional action, states could start to exhaust these funds as early as November,” the memo warned. “Additionally, if CHIP funding were not extended soon, states will need to take steps to notify CHIP children and families of possible changes in health coverage.”

Read the full draft bill below:

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