On Wednesday, both the Senate Finance Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee moved their version of a CHIP reauthorization. The Senate bill sponsored by Senate Finance Chair Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the Keeping Kids’ Insurance Dependable and Secure (KIDS) Act (S. 1827), would extend CHIP for five years and maintain the program with a gradual reduction in the enhanced state match. It was adopted by voice vote with Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) being the most vocal critic. No amendments were offered through a pre-mark-up agreement. There was discussion and hope expressed that a reauthorization of the home visiting bill could move with this legislation.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee acted later that same day on their CHIP bill the H.R.2 – Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015. The CHIP part of the bill is similar to the Senate version in several respects, but Democrats on the Committee voted against it because of the nature of the way it was paid for through additional revenue from Medicare. The work of the Committee included several other bills that are likely to be packaged including a bill to extend the expiring community health centers, and several health and Medicare bills. It also included some funding for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands’ Medicaid program. In the territories, Medicaid is more of a capped fund and Puerto Rico is running out of Medicaid funds. This situation is likely to worsen due to the effects of recent hurricanes.
Now, the path for these bills (CHIP and Home Visiting) gets murkier. The House of Representatives will be in session this week after the Columbus Day break, but the Senate will be out all week. The Senate will be back next week, but the House will be off for that week. That means they will not both be back until the week of October 23.