Congress Approves Six Year CHIP Authorization, Re-opens Government for Three Weeks
After a three-day government shutdown, the House and Senate passed a stopgap spending bill Monday to keep the government running through Feb. 8. The deal also provided a six-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and delayed certain Affordable Care Act (ACA) taxes. With a new Feb. 8 funding deadline, lawmakers will once again start negotiating on a long-term FY 2018 budget deal and a potential immigration package, among some remaining health care measures that have been logjammed in the government funding process.
Last Friday, the federal government shutdown after a short-term spending patch, known as a continuing resolution or CR, failed to pass both chambers of Congress before an all-important funding deadline. The original four-week CR, written by House Republicans, passed through the House but stalled in the Senate. Conflicts between Republicans and Democrats on appropriate levels of funding levels for defense and non-defense priorities as well as Democrats’ commitment seeing an immigration debate ultimately resulted in the Senate’s inability to pass the bill. However, the shutdown came to a close quickly the following Monday when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) agreed to hold a debate on immigration in the coming weeks and the CR was shortened by one week.
Importantly, in spite of the Senate’s “gentleman’s agreement” and the shutdown drama, it appears that House Republicans and President Trump are resolutely against pairing the Senate’s bipartisan immigration deal with any broader spending bill. That dynamic will be the one to watch as Congress tries to negotiate on a more permanent way forward.
HEALTH CARE MEASURES
The spending deal reauthorized CHIP for six years, ending a nearly four-month lapse in the program’s long-term federal funding. The CR delays the ACA’s medical device tax and the “Cadillac tax” on high-cost workplace health plans for two years and its health insurance tax for one year.
Notably, the bill does not contain a funding extension for community health centers or renewal of so-called Medicare “extenders.” Many advocates expressed alarm that these measures are now separated from the more politically-expeditious CHIP program and ACA taxes — both of which were signed into law by President Trump as part of Monday’s CR. Historically, these smaller health care measures have been assured regular extensions by being tied to CHIP – a bipartisan, priority health insurance program covering 9 million low-income children and families.
Despite a number of promises from lawmakers on which issues will be addressed in February’s funding decision, it remains unclear what will ultimately be included in the next government funding package.