Friday, Jan. 19: Government shutdowns are rare, with the last shutdown in 2013 that lasted 17 days. Even though the U.S. House passed legislation that would fund CHIP for six more years, the Senate may not approve the measure. In fact, Congress is facing the possibility of another government shutdown, which could leave health care for more than 9 million children caught in the middle of the fray.
Late Thursday evening the House passed legislation 230-197 to keep the government open for business through Feb. 16. The measure now faces a steep battle with Senate lawmakers as time ticks down to midnight to avoid a full shutdown. It’s been widely reported that conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus largely backed the measure even after being locked in debate with the White House and GOP leaders over concerns of military funding and immigration reform. The legislation also includes a measure to renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program for another six years.
Now with the legislation in the Senate it faces steep opposition by Democrats who appear intent on securing concessions that would, among other things, protect from deportation young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, increase domestic spending, aid Puerto Rico and bolster the government’s response to the opioid epidemic. Senate Democrats have publicly decried the GOP does not have the votes necessary to pass the legislation.
According to the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, there are now 11 states in danger of running out of CHIP money by the end of February…a number that will double by the end of March. Complicating matters even more, the Congressional Budget Office has stated that extending CHIP funding for 10 years would save the federal government $6 billion whereas initial estimates were that renewing CHIP funding would cost $8.2 billion.
The CBO adjustment stems from changes Congress has made to the Affordable Care Act making private health insurance more expensive and an increase in federal spending on subsidies for that coverage makes CHIP a better deal in comparison.
A government shutdown means more to medicine than health care for America’s children. It will affect the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during one of the most dangerous flu seasons in recent history. The National Institutes of Health will be forced to stop enrolling patients in clinical trials. Drug approvals by the Food and Drug Administration will come to a complete stop.
The Medical Association is closely monitoring legislation pertaining to CHIP funding and will report any changes as they occur.