Congress Marks Up Healthcare Funding Extension Bills

On October 4th, 2017, the Senate Finance Committee and the House Energy & Commerce Committee went through a “mark up” of legislation that could potentially extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for an additional five years. Though Congress let the current CHIPs funding lapse by not voting to extend funding before September 30, 2017, the new bill, if passed, would extend funding for the CHIPs program through 2022.

The bills under consideration in both the House and Senate to extend funding for CHIP are not identical, but they feature many similarities. These similarities include extending the 23% “bump” in the CHIP matching rate through 2019 while lessening the bump in subsequent years until the rate reverts to normal in 2021, and extending through 2022 the CHIP maintenance-of-effort (MOE) requirements for children in families with annual income less than 300% of the federal poverty level. The House CHIP bill would be paid for by changing Medicaid third-party liability rules, which has the potential to jeopardize reimbursement for prenatal care and pediatric preventive services.

Also on October 4th, the House Energy & Commerce Committee went through a “mark up” of bills that could potentially extend other healthcare programs. Among these bills is the Community Health And Medical Professionals Improve Our Nation, or CHAMPION, Act. If passed, this bill would provide an extension of funding for Family-to-Family Health Information Centers (F2Fs) through fiscal year 2019, increasing the funding of these centers by $1 million per center. The CHAMPION Act also calls for the establishment of F2Fs in all U.S. territories and for at least one Indian tribe. Lastly, the CHAMPION Act would extend funding for Community Health Centers, the Special Diabetes Programs, the National Health Service Corps, Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education, the Youth Empowerment Program, and the Personal Responsibility Education Program. Unfortunately, as currently written, the bill under consideration in the House pays for some of the cost of the CHAMPION Act by cutting the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which currently funds several important programs of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including childhood immunizations and lead poisoning prevention.

Another bill currently under consideration in both the Senate and House is the Community Health Investment, Modernization and Excellence (CHIME) Act, which has, to this point, garnered support from both sides of the political aisle. If passed, the CHIME Act would extend the Community Health Centers Fund for five years, helping to fund Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) across the nation.

All of this proposed legislation faces an uphill battle in that each piece must pass through the House and Senate, surviving markup and amendment. The biggest hurdle for all pieces is likely to be reaching an agreement on how each bill will be paid for. However, each bill is of great importance in its own right as each affects access to healthcare for a slightly different demographic.