November 03, 2017
Area(s) of Interest: Access to Care Advocacy
The U.S. House of Representatives today passed a bill to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for five years. The bill (HR 3922) would also extend the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) program and the National Health Service Corps for two years. The measure retains the Affordable Care Act’s boost in the federal match rate for CHIP for two years, before it begins to wind down in 2020.
Although the successful 20-year-old CHIP program has historically had bipartisan support, today’s vote was largely on party lines, with Democrats objecting to the funding offsets.
While the California Medical Association (CMA) strongly supports reauthorizing the successful CHIP program, we are concerned that one of the major funding offsets for this legislation would be cuts to the Prevention and Public Health Fund. The Prevention and Public Health Fund has historically been used by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in part to improve childhood immunizations nationwide. Both programs are critical to improving the health and well-being of our nation’s children, and it is counterproductive to cut one to pay for the other.
“Both the CHIP program, serving 2 million children and pregnant women in California, and the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program, which trains and retains physicians in underserved areas, are crucial to Californians’ ability to access health care,” said CMA President Theodore M. Mazer, M.D. “While CMA agrees that reauthorizing CHIP and THCGME is a real priority, it is unfortunate that this legislation does so by shifting funding away from the Prevention and Public Health Fund. We urge Congress to reauthorize these programs and urge alternative financing be found to spare the Public Health Fund.”
Since its inception, CHIP has successfully provided children of low-income, working families access to physicians so they have a chance to grow up healthy and thrive. It provides access to comprehensive coverage, mental health services and essential preventive services, such as immunizations and developmental screenings, to prevent more serious illnesses and disease.
Over the past 20 years, CHIP has helped reduce the nation’s uninsured rate for children to a record low of 5 percent. In California, the CHIP program currently serves nearly 2 million children and pregnant women – more than 9 million nationwide.
All California Republicans (except LaMalfa who did not vote) and four California Democrats (Bera, Carbajal, Correa and Costa) supported the bill. Democrats Peters and Speier did not vote.
The bill now moves to the Senate. CMA is urging Congress to continue bipartisan funding negotiations as the bill moves through the process.