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Children's Health Insurance Program a Bargaining Chip in Budget Talks


Congressional Republicans hope that support for the Children's Health Insurance Program will be enough to help push through yet another stopgap spending measure that would stop a government shutdown that looms at the end of this week.

Around 9 million children and 370,000 pregnant women are served by CHIP, which serves families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but who can't afford insurance on the open market.  The program expired last September and has been sustained through Congress shifting around surplus funds. But reallocating existing funds would only last so long, advocates said, and the latest federal analysis says that some states will run out of money by Jan.19. Many states have already starting notifying families that they should look for other health coverage options. 

As lawmakers wrangle over another short-term budget bill, House GOP leaders are using the prospect of a six-year reauthorization of CHIP in order to get more Democratic support.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday, praised the prospect of long-term funding for the program he helped create in 1997. "We've never gotten such a long extension since the creation of the program over 20 years ago," he said. 

President Donald Trump on Thursday introduced a wild card into the negotiations with a tweet saying, "CHIP should be part of a long term solution, not a 30 Day, or short term, extension!"

Later in the day, however, the White House said President Donald Trump supports the House effort to avert a government shutdown and fund the popular children's health insurance program, the Associated Press reported. "The President supports the continuing resolution introduced in the House," White House spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement.

Democrats have wanted to connect immigration to a continuing resolution on the budget, and have been looking for a way to help adults who were brought to the country illegally when they were children. A deal on those adults, known as Dreamers, seems unlikely at this point after a contentious White House meeting. President Trump was said to have made vulgar remarks about African nations and Haiti. 

Image by Getty

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