Congress let CHIP expire; Denali KidCare OK for now

Photo of U.S. Capitol by Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media

Funding for CHIP, the low-income children’s health insurance program, expired at the end of September. If Congress doesn’t renew the program, several states are projected to run out of money by the end of the year. In Alaska, the issue isn’t quite so urgent. The Division of Health Care Services says the state has enough money to continue funding its CHIP program, called Denali KidCare, until April.

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In Congress, both parties say they want to renew it, and the House is expected to vote on its bill this week.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., blames Democrats for dragging their feet; even they know a deadline is about to hit a number of states.

“They cannot wait for a lack of action here. So yes, I’m upset by this,” McCarthy said.

House Democrats take issue with the “offsets,” the cuts the bill would make elsewhere to pay for children’s insurance. The House CHIP bill would cut a public health fund established by the Affordable Care Act. It would also shorten the grace period for people to pay for plans they buy under the ACA. And the bill would increase Medicare premiums for seniors earning more than $500,000 a year.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says Republicans are willing to sacrifice public health to pay for CHIP but aren’t requiring such sacrifices to pay for tax cuts.

“So tax cuts for the rich don’t have to be offset. They can increase the deficit,” Pelosi said. “Children’s health, which has its own benefit to our economy, has to be paid for by other children’s health.”

The Senate’s CHIP bill doesn’t specify offsets. Unless both chambers move their bills soon, children’s health insurance could get wrapped into the end-of-the-year spending negotiations.

 

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Liz Ruskin covers Alaska issues in Washington as the network's D.C. correspondent. She was born in Anchorage and is a West High grad. She has degrees from the University of Washington and the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia. She previously worked at the Homer News, the Anchorage Daily News and the Washington bureau of McClatchy Newspapers. She also freelanced for several years from the U.K. and Japan, in print and radio. Liz has been APRN’s Washington, D.C. correspondent since October 2013. She's @lruskin on Twitter. She welcomes your news tips at lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  | About Liz

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