Reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program used to be a fairly painless, bipartisan process.
But few things are painless or bipartisan in Washington these days.
More than a month after Congress let the program lapse, a reauthorization bill passed the House on Friday on a mostly party-line vote to restore coverage to 9 million low-income children, including more than 125,000 in Minnesota.
The catch, and it’s a big one, is that the bill would pay for children’s health care with cuts to other health programs. The House bill would cut money from the Affordable Care Act’s public health fund, shorten the grace period for people who miss premium payments and charge the wealthy higher Medicare premiums. The controversy makes a Senate vote on the bill unlikely.
Minnesota exhausted last year’s $110 million CHIP budget and is fast running through $3.6 million in extra federal funding for pregnant women, older children and toddlers in the program. The state risks steep federal penalties if funding isn’t restored by December.
Friday’s vote split the delegation. All three Republicans and Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson voted for reauthorization. The remaining four Democrats voted against.
“Republicans need to stop playing games and reauthorize these programs before Minnesota faces a critical December 1 deadline to continue coverage for children and expecting mothers,” said Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum.
Republican Rep. Jason Lewis said his yes vote would ensure “high-quality, accessible health care for low-income kids in Minnesota.”