House Republicans ramped up pressure to get Democrats to support a short-term deal to fund the government because it includes a six-year deal to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program, with one saying the party is backing illegal immigrants over kids.
House Democratic leadership is telling members to vote no on a deal to fund the government until Feb. 16 partly because it does not include protections for “Dreamers,” who are young adults who entered the country illegally as children. Democrats have charged that Republicans are using CHIP to undermine Obamacare. It is an open question if Republicans have enough votes in their own conference for the funding deal.
But several Republicans used a press conference Wednesday to bash Democrats for not supporting a deal for CHIP, which provides insurance for about nine million low-income children.
“The Democrats would rather support illegal aliens as opposed to our American children,” said Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-La.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., a member of GOP leadership, said there is “no good reason to punish children today to keep Congress from passing" the continuing resolution.
She pointed to a new estimate from the Congressional Budget Office that found extending CHIP for a decade would save the government $6 billion.
The House passed a five-year CHIP reauthorization in November with about two dozen Democrats. However, the bill went nowhere in the Senate because of Democratic objections over how Republicans want to pay for it.
Republicans sought to pay for CHIP by charging wealthy seniors higher Medicare premiums and raiding an Obamacare disease prevention fund. Republicans also sought to shorten a grace period for the time between when a person stops paying their premium and when their coverage is cut off.
Now, Republicans are applying political pressure by pointing out that funding isn’t a problem any more.
“What is the issue that they have against children and pregnant women being covered by CHIP?” asked House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore.
The CBO estimated that after the tax legislation repealed Obamacare’s requirement for everyone to have insurance, fewer families would sign their children up for CHIP and save the federal government money. Another reason for the savings is that a lower matching rate for federal funding will go into effect in 2021, resulting in more savings.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., defended Democratic opposition to the earlier CHIP bills.
“They tacked on a lot of other elements to try to obliterate the Affordable Care Act,” she said. “If you try to kill the Affordable Care Act by a thousand cuts, they are succeeding. It is gonna bleed to death.”
CHIP is a federal program that matches state funding to provide health insurance to children in low-income families.
The continuing resolution also includes two-year delays to Obamacare’s medical device tax and “Cadillac” tax on high-cost health plans. It also has a one-year delay to the health insurance tax that goes into effect in 2019.
However, it does not include funding for other critical health programs including for community health centers, which are nonprofits that provide healthcare to a certain geographic area.
The House package that passed in November had two years of funding for health centers and delayed cuts of disproportionate-share hospital payments, which reimburse hospitals for charity care provided to low-income patients.
Obamacare required hospitals to make the cuts starting in 2018. Hospitals are pushing back, charging that some facilities, especially in rural areas, can’t afford to lose the funding.
Walden said that the goal is to get funding for those healthcare programs in a longer-term "omnibus" spending deal.