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Waxman Not Married to CHIP Repeal

We’ve been writing for months that a major hurdle facing Democratic leaders as they merge the House and Senate heath reform proposals is what to do with the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. The House has proposed to terminate CHIP at the end of 2013, citing the ease of enrollment if kids were covered in the same plan as their parents. The Senate, on the other hand, funds CHIP through 2015. Supporters of the Senate provision warn that moving youngsters to exchange plans will increase costs to low-income families, many of which would respond by not buying coverage for their kids at all.

Each side has been adamant in defense of its approach. Until now. CQ reported over the weekend that Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the Energy & Commerce Committee and a supporter of the House CHIP repeal, “may not insist” on the House provision.

In a separate interview, Waxman signaled that while he strongly favors his approach, he may not insist on it. “I’m not drawing lines in the sand on anything,” he said. Lawmakers in both chambers “want to make sure we protect children’s access to health care.”

It’s worth mentioning that advocates of keeping CHIP around aren’t entirely pleased with the current program, which has a funding cap and therefore threatens to drop kids during budget squeezes. They merely worry that the switch to the exchanges would reduce the number of insured kids in the name of expanding coverage.

Also worth noting, the CHIP program, while funded by the government, is run through private insurance companies. That means that Waxman and other supporters of terminating CHIP are up against, not only children’s welfare advocates, but the insurance lobby as well.

“Many analysts expect that some version of the Senate language will prevail in the final bill,” CQ writes. “Lobbyists for America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group, say that shifting people into different programs could be disruptive and confusing, which could lead to some children ending up uninsured.”

And AHIP is a group that knows how to get what it wants from Congress.

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