• Article
  • September 20, 2017

Health Care Reform Bill and CHIP: What You Need to Know

Here's the latest action in Congress on two issues that affect children's health care and what you can do to get involved.

Millions of patients at the nation's children's hospitals, many of them with complex medical conditions, rely on Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to cover their health care needs. Changes, cuts or failure to fund these programs could put kids' health at risk. Here's what you need to know about the latest actions in Congress that affect these programs and what you can do about it.

An update on repeal and replace

UPDATE: On Sept. 26, 2017, Senate leadership announced there would be no vote on the Graham-Cassidy bill due to a lack of support among senators.

After several failed attempts at passing legislation this year, Graham-Cassidy is the latest bill in the Senate. This bill represents a new approach by redirecting funding to the states and giving them a larger role in providing coverage to those people currently receiving care under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

This bill maintains much of the Medicaid changes of the previous Better Care Reconciliation Act and would cut Medicaid funding for the nation's children. Graham-Cassidy has generated momentum in recent days, and Republican leaders say there is a chance they can break the deadlock. The window to pass it, however, is short. To use special rules allowing a simple majority to pass a bill, the Senate must clear this bill by Sept. 30.

What you can do: Medicaid covers more than 30 million kids, and it's crucial that Congress not cut funding for their care. Contact your senators, and tell them you don't support this bill.

Renewing CHIP

As Congress continues its debate over potential changes to Medicaid and the ACA, the window for bipartisan action on CHIP, a longstanding health care program, narrows. Federal funding for the program that more than 6 million children rely on is set to expire on Sept. 30—it's important Congress moves fast to extend funding.

On Monday, Sept. 18, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Chairman and Ranking Member of Senate Finance Committee respectively, introduced a bill that would provide the five-year funding extension—the first legislative step in a long process. To meet the deadline, the U.S. House and Senate need to pass bills quickly.

As a health insurance program, CHIP is there for working families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid coverage for their kids, but not enough to afford private insurance. CHIP complements Medicaid and covers an additional 6 million kids.

Not only are families anxious, but state governments are, too. Most state budgets are set for the next fiscal year, and many states have budgeted for federal funding at the same level. Without a guarantee that CHIP funding will be extended, states may have to disenroll children, impose lock-outs and waiting periods, or even end CHIP altogether.

Congress needs to move quickly to enact a five-year extension of CHIP, which will give the program and those who depend on it stability. This plan is supported by the National Governors Association, the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission and children's hospitals.

What you can do: Families across the country rely on this program. Contact your senators and representative and tell them that CHIP is priority for our children so it's a priority for you. An investment in this critical program is an investment in the future of our nation.

Send questions or comments to magazine@childrenshospitals.org.