The Senate Finance Committee voted Wednesday to reauthorize a program that gives health insurance to about 35,000 children in Idaho.
After the bill passed the committee, a Pennsylvania Republican said that he will team up with Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo to bring an amendment that would more tightly control the program’s funding.
The bill approved Wednesday by the committee would fund the federal share of the Children’s Health Insurance Program for another five years. Current funding levels would continue for two years, with reductions in the remaining years.
CHIP expired Saturday, when Congress missed the deadline to reauthorize the program. Many states, including Idaho, expect to run out of CHIP money by early next year and have been scrambling to make contingency plans so that low-income children do not lose coverage.
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The 20-year-old program covers children whose families are low-income but don’t qualify for Medicaid. Since its creation, CHIP has reduced the overall rate of uninsured American children from 14 percent to less than 5 percent.
Crapo, a Finance Committee member, wasn’t present for Wednesday’s vote because he had to chair a Senate Banking Committee hearing at the same time, said spokesman Lindsay Nothern. Crapo expected the CHIP bill to pass, he said.
Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey told the committee that he and Crapo plan to propose some restrictions on CHIP funding.
“Many people might be shocked to learn that since 2009, only 58 percent of the money that CHIP’s legislation has mandated ... has ever gone to CHIP,” Toomey said.
The Washington Examiner reported that Toomey’s source of information was a Congressional Research Service report, which found that states routinely do not spend their full CHIP appropriation. More than $42 billion of CHIP’s allowance was subsequently shifted to unrelated federal programs since 2009, the report said, according to the Examiner.
A state’s actual spending on CHIP depends on various factors, such as how many children enroll and use CHIP each year. That can be unpredictable, but the appropriations are set beforehand, Toomey noted.
“This has become a slush fund,” he said.
Specifics on Idaho’s CHIP spending could not be confirmed Wednesday.
The amendment by Toomey and Crapo would require that CHIP funding be used only for children’s health care. Toomey did not offer the amendment for a vote but suggested that he and Crapo might bring it up later in the legislative process.