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In the News: Clock ticking down on children’s health funding

Health

From The Hill:

BY NATHANIEL WEIXEL – 

WASHINGTON–Differences between the House and Senate ahead could threaten funding for a program that provides health care to some 9 million low- and middle-income children.

Senators last week announced a bipartisan deal to extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which is set to expire at the end of the month.

Advocacy groups hailed the agreement, but passage of a bill is far from assured.

Lawmakers have a tight legislative window and little margin for error.

Leaders of the Senate Finance Committee this week said they have agreed to extend CHIP for five years. Text of the legislation has yet to be released, and there has been little discussion about how to pay for the renewal, which is a key sticking point.

Senate aides said the renewal of CHIP would move in its own bill. A markup could happen as early as next week, though that could be delayed if the chamber takes one last shot at ObamaCare repeal.

Meanwhile, the House appears stalled on what to do about CHIP. Aides from both parties said bipartisan discussions are ongoing, but lawmakers left town on Thursday without announcing a deal; they won’t return for over a week.

House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) are signaling they want a broader legislative package. There are a host of expiring Medicare programs that could be included in a bill, such as funding for community health centers.

“Bipartisan discussions continue, and I’m hopeful that we can finalize an agreement that includes CHIP, community health centers and other important health care provisions and get it to the floor before the end of the fiscal year,” Pallone said in a statement to The Hill.

But adding additional provisions could create problems in the Senate.

“I think CHIP should stand alone. I’d like to keep it that way,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said.

Walden’s committee had hoped to mark up CHIP legislation this week, but that didn’t happen. Now the chamber risks running out of time to work out a deal.

“It’s a huge concern the House has no bill,” said Bruce Lesley, president of the children’s health advocacy group First Focus. “There’s no way this can ping pong [between the chambers] in the last week.” READ MORE