The federal government officially reopened on Monday, January 22, after being shut down on Friday night thanks to a standstill in the Senate over a government spending bill. Democrats and Republicans came to a short-term agreement on how the nation’s public offices would continue to get funded through February 8. And while there’s no end in sight to the political back-and-forth between lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, one positive aspect of the short-term spending bill is that the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has been reauthorized for another six years.
Funding for CHIP ended on September 30, leaving several states in a panic over what to do about the millions of children covered by the joint federal and state program. Connecticut stopped accepting applications in December. At least five other states were expected to freeze enrollment soon with an additional 11 states set to run out of funding by the end of February. The short-term spending bill allocates $124 billion for state CHIP programs through 2023.
The federal-state program that provides health insurance for children and some pregnant women has been largely popular with both Democrats and Republicans throughout its 20-year history. Established in 1997 in a bipartisan effort, CHIP serves nearly 9 million children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford health insurance. Approximately 375,000 pregnant women are also enrolled.
Traditionally, CHIP has been reauthorized each year ahead of the fiscal deadline, but this year’s healthcare debacle cast an uncertain pall over the program’s future. Republican representatives in the House passed a CHIP funding bill in November but could not garner Democratic support over questions of how the program would be funded.
Republicans attached a CHIP spending resolution to the short-term spending bill last week hoping to gain bipartisan support once more. That plan backfired as Democratic senators held out for negotiations on immigration. On Monday, a bipartisan cohort of senators agreed to a stopgap measure to keep the government running until February 8, which included funding for CHIP for the next six years and ended the four-month stalemate over the program’s future.