Earlier this week, late-night host Jimmy Kimmel used his monologue to make a plea for Congress to extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The push was passionate, but left out many important details.
Among them, the House’s bipartisan passage of H.R 3922, the CHAMPIONING HEALTHY KIDS Act, in November. H.R. 3922 includes: a five-year extension of CHIP, a two-year extension of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) or Community Health Centers, and a two-year extension for additional public health programs.
Check out what else The Washington Post’s Fact Checker had to say about the late-night monologue.
Fact-checking Jimmy Kimmel on CHIP funding
December 13, 2017
CHIP “always had bipartisan support. But this year, they let the money for it expire while they work on getting tax cuts for their billionaire and millionaire donors.”
— Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, in a monologue, Dec. 11, 2017
Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel on Dec. 11 stepped out of his comedic role and offered a commentary on the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, after introducing his son Billy, who has a serious heart issue. His presentation was a bit one-sided, and readers requested a fact check. It’s often difficult to describe Washington sausage-making in shorthand, and Kimmel fell short in several areas, appearing to pin most of the blame on Republicans — even though he was careful not to mention party affiliation.
So, in the video above and the text below, we offer a quick guide to his rhetoric. Since this is akin to a round-up, we’re not awarding Pinocchios.
We also want to thank the very bright and talented doctors and nurses at Children’s Hospital who treated Billy, and not just Billy, many kids with so much caring and compassion. Children from every income level whose health is especially threatened right now because of something you’ve probably never heard of; it’s called CHIP.
CHIP is the Children’s Health Insurance Program. It covers around 9 million American kids whose parents make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but don’t have access to coverage, affordable coverage, through their jobs, which means it almost certainly covers children you know.
CHIP was created in 1997 during the Bill Clinton administration as part of a balanced-budget deal signed by the president. By all accounts, the prime mover behind CHIP was the late senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). He was inspired by a similar Massachusetts program and then enlisted Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) as his partner in the effort. The original idea was to fund children’s health care with money raised from taxes on tobacco products. Hatch is still in the Senate and chairman of the Finance Committee, making him a key player in the negotiations.
About 1 in 8 children are covered only by CHIP, and it’s not controversial. It’s not a partisan thing. In fact, the last time funding for CHIP was authorized was in 2015. It passed with a vote of 392 to 37 in the House and 92 to 8 in the Senate. Overwhelmingly, Democrats and Republicans supported it. Until now.
Support for CHIP remains bipartisan. Kimmel starts to go off the rails by suggesting that support is no longer bipartisan.
The federal fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, which is why funding technically ran out when CHIP was not reauthorized. But states may continue to spend unspent 2017 allotments and funds from earlier years. Only three states and the District were projected to exhaust their funds by the end of December; more than half the states would run out of funds if fiscal year 2018 funding is not set by the end of March. That’s the kind of deadline that focuses the attention of lawmakers.
In any case, the stopgap spending bill approved in early December included a provision that permits the Department of Health and Human Services to shift funds internally to help states whose CHIP programs are running out of money. Congressional leaders are expected to continue negotiating a long-term reauthorization of the program in the coming weeks.
Now CHIP has become a bargaining chip. It’s on the back burner while they work out their new tax plans, which means parents of children with cancer, diabetes and heart problems are about to get letters saying their coverage could be cut off next month. Merry Christmas, right?
Kimmel falsely suggests that CHIP has become bargaining chip as part of the negotiations over the tax plan. It’s actually part of the usual year-end negotiations in Congress. Few lawmakers are really against CHIP; the question is how to fund it.
The GOP-led House of Representatives on Nov. 3 passed a CHIP reauthorization bill by a vote of 242-174, with most Democrats voting against it because of funding offsets. In particular, they objected to shortening the grace period for Obamacare enrollees who fail to make premium payments. House Republicans have complained that Democrats have not countered with their own funding proposals, while Democrats have said offsets should not be necessary when the tax bills will add to the federal budget deficit. They have instead pushed for a “clean bill” rather than one with “poison pills.”
The Senate Finance Committee in October approved its own version of the CHIP funding extension, but agreement has not been reached on how to fund it. Still, it’s quite possible a deal will be reached before Christmas. Lawmakers want to leave town before then. …
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