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House Announces Vote on Bill Reauthorizing CHIP Program

The House of Representatives announced Thursday it will hold a vote next week on a bill extending funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides health insurance to approximately nine million low-income children whose families don't qualify for Medicaid. Federal funding for the program, which enjoys bipartisan support and is typically not the subject of much political drama, expired on September 30th.

While states have been able to continue to run their CHIP programs in the interim using funds on hand, several states are on the verge of running out of money. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy acknowledged as much, saying: "The reason why we're bringing it up next week is not because next week was the date we wanted to. We wanted to get this done long ago, but the reason why we're doing it next week is because Minnesota's about to run out of money."

In fact, a report released Thursday by Georgetown University's Center for Children and Families concluded that six states—Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Minnesota, Ohio, and Oregon—are projecting they'll run out of money by the end of the year. An additional six states—Colorado, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington—announced they will be forced to take some kind of "action" (such as notifying families that their coverage will end) by the end of the year.

The legislation has been delayed in the House by disputes over funding. The GOP wants to include cuts and changes to the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and Medicare in the legislation, none of which are likely to fly with Democrats in the Senate (where 60 votes are needed and a bipartisan bill has been drafted). The funding delay has caused widespread consternation—Hillary Clinton has been tweeting about it all month, and officials in states across the political spectrum have begged Congress to quickly fund the program.

The delay is also unprecedented, as the Georgetown researchers pointed out in no uncertain terms. "Only once in CHIP's 20-year history has funding for CHIP lapsed temporarily. ... At that time, funding lapsed for no more than five days before Congress provided a series of short-term financing patches that bridged funding gaps until CHIP was reauthorized in 2009 under President Obama," the authors wrote. "The current lack of action in Congress is unprecedented and puts at risk the nation's success in covering children."