Hatch, Wyden reach deal to extend CHIP funding 5 years

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, hopes to advance a five-year CHIP reauthorization bill quickly through Congress. (Gage Skidmore/CC BY-SA 2.0)

The two leaders of the Senate Finance Committee announced on Tuesday that they’ve reached a deal to extend federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program for another five years.

The news comes not a moment too soon, as the current funding reauthorization expires Sept. 30. Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said they plan to release full legislative language “in the coming days.”

The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing last week on the subject of reauthorizing CHIP funding, during which officials warned that failing to act quickly will put both patients and state budgets in jeopardy.

“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,” said Anne Schwartz, the executive director of the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission. 

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In his statement on Tuesday announcing the deal, Hatch acknowledged the urgency of pushing a CHIP reauthorization measure through Congress despite lawmakers’ jam-packed fall agenda.

“We will continue to work to advance this agreement in a way that does not add to the deficit, and I am hopeful we can move forward swiftly to ensure no lapse in care for our nation’s most vulnerable children,” he said. 

In addition to ensuring uninterrupted funding for CHIP, the forthcoming bill “provides certainty and increased flexibility for states to administer the program,” Hatch added.

That effort could still face roadblocks, however. Previous reports have indicated that lawmakers might try to tack on provisions to a CHIP reauthorization bill such as a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s medical device and health insurance taxes or cuts to Medicaid. Those potentially divisive tweaks could slow down the measure’s path to passage as Congress debates them.