Congress renews children’s health insurance for six years; other health safety-net programs still awaiting reauthorization

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On January 22, congressional lawmakers renewed funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years as part of a three-week continuing resolution (CR) (H.R. 195) funding the government through February 8, 2018. The stopgap measure ended a nearly four month-long lapse in CHIP’s federal funding. The CR notably included a delay of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) “Cadillac Tax” on employer health plans, which would have affected many counties.

Congressional efforts to reauthorize CHIP had been at a standstill for nearly four months as lawmakers debated the budgetary offsets needed to fund the program. However, a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report released January 11 indicating the cost of long-term CHIP reauthorization would cost less than previously expected eased lawmakers’ concerns and allowed the CR to garner enough support for passage.

The budget deal unfortunately excluded multiple health and human services safety-net extenders for programs such as Community Health Centers (CHC), disproportionate share hospital payments (DSH) and the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program.

Funding lapses for these programs hit particularly close to home for counties, which play a central role in delivering care through community health centers, DSH-supported hospitals and home visiting programs. NACo has closely monitored reauthorization efforts on these programs and is concerned with the impact funding interruptions have on counties’ ability to deliver quality health services to residents. Last month, NACo, the National League of Cities (NLC) and the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), sent a joint letter to Congressional leadership urging lawmakers to reauthorize funding for these programs.

Congress is expected to continue appropriations negotiations into early 2018 as lawmakers seek a longer-term spending deal before government funding expires after February 8. NACo will continue tracking legislative developments on these health programs and their potential impacts on counties. 

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