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Extending CHIP Would Actually Save Taxpayers Money: CBO

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Cleveland Plain Dealer: Restore long-term funding for children's health programs

Dr. Mahendra Patel, a pediatric cancer doctor, has begun giving away medications to some of his patients, determined not to disrupt their treatments for serious illnesses like leukemia, should Congress fail to come up with renewed funding for a key children's health program now hostage to partisan politics. It's a drastic step, since the federal government pays, on average, almost 90 percent of CHIP costs.

Last month, when Congress allocated $2.85 billion in additional funding to keep CHIP running a couple extra months in the most vulnerable states, some lawmakers complained that they didn't have enough money to pay for the program. Funding for the program expired back in September.

He has seen couples divorce just to qualify for Medicaid coverage, something he fears will happen if the Children's Health Insurance Program is axed. The CHIP benefits allow him to continue his work as a civil rights attorney, providing free representation for people with disabilities. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) tweeted Wednesday.

The CBO based its report on a Senate Bill to extend CHIP funding for five years. That bill passed 242-174 largely on party lines as Democrats objected to funding offsets, including "cuts to the Prevention and Public Health Fund, Medicare means testing for wealthier seniors, changes to Medicaid third party liability and changes to the grace period for Affordable Care Act plans", according to Boston Children's Hospital. In the Senate, aides were less confident the package can pass as a stand-alone, but Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who said that fund is critical for children's health, too. (It's a five-year funding bill.) But no matter.

Meanwhile, the almost $3 billion for CHIP that Congress passed in December could run out in just a few weeks.

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Though a short-term measure will keep it going until March, a doctor that spoke with FOX19 NOW says if action isn't taken soon families in the Tri-State will be impacted.

How could spending money on children's health care result in net savings in the long run? I have long supported the CHIP program.

Federal funding for CHIP originally ran out October 1.

Congressional leaders are working on a deal to extend the program for five years, possibly as part of a broader agreement to fund the government before a January 19 deadline.

"The short term patch that lawmakers included in an end-of-year funding deal only provides momentary relief", the organization wrote. But officials say some states could start running out of money as early as next week.

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