By: Reema Taneja
After 114 days of uncertainty, Congress approved reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funding for the next six years. The CHIP program serves children in families who have incomes that are too high to qualify for Medicaid, but are still unable to afford private insurance. The program was created in 1997 with a bipartisan vote. It is administered by the states, but is funded by both the states and the federal government.
CHIP funding lapsed on October 1, 2017, leaving many states and affected families in a frenzy. The program that provides coverage to nine million low-income children was in jeopardy due to not having a budget for almost four months. Although CHIP funding had been consistently renewed without issue in the past, the two parties were unable to reach a consensus this past fall. To help ameliorate the effects of the delay in renewal, Congress passed a stopgap spending bill in December, giving the program 2.85 billon dollars. The bill was supposed to provide CHIP with enough money to keep it running through March; however, many states began to run out of the short-term funding by mid-January.
The renewal of CHIP funding became entangled with the political debates surrounding the Affordable Care Act and the DACA program. In mid-January, Republicans released a second proposal to extend the CHIP program for six years and provide a four-week continuing resolution to fund the rest of the government. Initially, Democrats rejected the proposal, demanding that the new plan address the current immigration policy and the DACA program. This disagreement lead to the government shutdown that began on January 20th.
Shortly thereafter, on January 22nd, the two parties approved a three-week budget extension with a six-year renewal of CHIP, and an agreement to vote on a bill to address the status of immigrants under the DACA program. Families who rely on CHIP for essential healthcare coverage were relieved when both parties came to a consensus to end the 114 day lapse and approve CHIP funding for the next six years.