Funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides coverage for some 9 million children nationwide, expired at the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 and is now facing an uncertain renewal future. Though the Senate Finance Committee approved a bill providing $100 billion over five years, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a bill that Democrats complained would take money from Medicare and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The House bill, approved on a party-line vote, would require those on Medicare who earn more than $500,000 a year to pay a higher monthly premium, and it would allow states to curtail Medicaid services for those who win the lottery. High earners already pay about $400 a month for Medicare, but the bill would tack on another $135 monthly.
“Folks that earn a half-million dollars a year and are over 65, they can pay a little bit more for Medicare,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R.-Mich.). “And you know what? If they don’t want to pay, they don’t have to enroll. That’s a choice they will have.”
Countered Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D.-Ill.): The GOP bill is “a first step in eroding a social insurance program, Medicare, that has for many years been in the cross-hairs of the Republican Party.”
The Senate version left unsaid where the money would come from, and at least one Senator, Patrick Toomey (R.-Pa.), complained that $100 billion is “a number that’s wildly in excess of what anyone thinks could plausibly happen. It is completely dishonest budgeting.”
Participating states still have funds to operate the program, though some say they will run out of money by the end of the year, others by next spring, if funding is not restored.
The bickering, said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D.-N.J.) , “will likely mean more delay and possibly no action in Congress until the end of the year as part of an omnibus appropriations bill.”