At Senate hearing, witnesses warn lawmakers not to delay CHIP reauthorization

The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing Thursday on "the path forward" for the Children's Health Insurance Program.

At a Senate hearing Thursday, witnesses urged lawmakers to reauthorize federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which is set to expire at the end of the month.

“I want to make sure you understand that there are serious consequences looming if you delay reauthorization—even for a few months,” Linda Nablo, chief deputy director of the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services said in her prepared testimony.

“Without congressional action soon,” she added, “we will be forced to start preparations to shut it down, throwing families of over 60,000 children in Virginia, and millions across the country, into a panic.”

Anne Schwartz, the executive director of the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC), backed up Nablo’s point.

“In the face of uncertainty, many state administrators are already considering the numerous steps they will have to take to either freeze enrollment, scale back or shut down programs,” she noted.

MACPAC has recommended that Congress reauthorize federal CHIP funding for five years. In the long term, though, it suggests “a more seamless system of children’s coverage” that removes the potential gaps in coverage when children transition between publicly and privately financed health insurance.

In other payer-related news from Capitol Hill:

Warren signs on to Sanders’ Medicare-for-all bill

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., announced Thursday that she is co-sponsoring the single-payer bill championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

While the Affordable Care Act has accomplished a great deal, “there’s so much more we could do right now to bring down the costs of quality healthcare for every American,” she said.

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One of those options, she continued, is to support a Medicare-for-all system, where everyone is covered, no one goes broke paying a medical bill and families don’t have to bear the costs of medical disasters on their own.

Warren’s announcement comes on the heels of Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., saying she would co-sponsor Sanders’ bill. (Release)

Murphy plots his own single-payer legislation

Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, a rising star in the Democratic Party, is working on a bill that would allow every individual and business to buy into Medicare as part of the Affordable Care Act exchanges.

Murphy said he’s not trying to compete with Sanders’ Medicare-for-all bill, but rather offer a more pragmatic approach for how to move toward that seemingly unreachable goal.

His plan “may not be as big a leap for the healthcare system as single-payer, but I think it’s a big, easy-to-understand, and super-popular idea,” Murphy said. (Politico)