Congress Holds CHIP Extension Hearings

Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee both held markups on the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  The program expired on September 30th, and many states with rural communities will exhaust funding resources by early 2018 without an extension. The committees considered two identical bills, the Keep Kids’ Insurance Dependable and Secure (KIDS) Act of 2017 (S. 1827) and the Helping Ensure Access for Little Ones, Toddlers, and Hopeful Youth by Keeping Insurance Delivery Stable (HEALTHY KIDS) Act of 2017 (H.R. 3921). These bills both reauthorize the program for 5 years, but reduce the federal-state partnership funding levels to pre-Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion levels. The bills also eliminate planned FY2018 reductions for Disproportional Share Hospital (DSH) payments, but extend DSH reductions through FY2026 and FY2027.
 
The Senate Finance Committee approved the bill by bipartisan voice vote, sending it to the full Senate for consideration. The House Energy and Commerce Committee considered a series of bills during their hearing on the HEALTHY KIDS Act, including the Protecting Seniors’ Access to Care Act of 2017 (H.R. 849)  and the Community Health and Medical Professionals Improve Our Nation (CHAMPION) Act (H.R. 3922). Unlike in the Senate’s KIDS Act, the House’s HEALTHY KIDS Act included controversial offset payment policies to ensure that the CHIP extension would not increase the federal deficit. One of these policies included an increase in Medicare premiums for beneficiaries with higher-incomes (over 500,000 annually). The Committee passed the HEALTHY KIDS Act out of committee with a party line vote of 28-23.
 
The House Ways and Means Committee also hosted a markup of the Protecting Seniors’ Access to Care Act. The intention of the markup was to discuss the repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), but the focus shifted to programs that are expiring sooner, including CHIP, Medicare extenders, Disproportional Share Hospital (DSH) payments, and community health centers. Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) discussed H.R. 1955, the Rural Hospital Access Act of 2017. NRHA supports this legislation, which would permanently extend the Medicare-dependent hospital (MDH) program and increase and extend payments for the Medicare low-volume hospital (LVH) program. These programs are essential to preventing more hospitals from closing in rural America.
 
NRHA will continue to monitor these bills and other related legislation and we will update the blog with more information as it becomes available.
 

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