CHN: Children’s Health Insurance Program and other Health Programs Extended Along with Medicare Doc Fix

Congress showed rare bipartisanship in passing legislation that extended several health programs for low-income children and adults. These programs were included in a package that repealed automatic payment cuts to doctors under Medicare, known more commonly as the ‘Doc Fix’ or SGR, short for the sustainable growth rate formula that would have caused the cuts.
Included in the legislation were several programs that allow low-income people to get needed health care. Among these is the Children’s Health Care Program (CHIP), which was extended for two years through September 2017. CHIP provides health insurance to children in families whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid, but too low to afford private coverage. According to Families USA, CHIP covers more than 8 million children and has played a key role in reducing the number of uninsured children by more than 50 percent.

Two other programs were extended in the package – the Qualified Individual (QI) and Transitional Medical Assistance (TMA) programs. The QI program, which pays Medicare Part B premiums for very low income seniors, was made permanent, though funding for it was only extended through FY16. The TMA program, which was also made permanent, helps families temporarily continue health coverage when they become ineligible for Medicaid because of increased work hours or income. This ensures coverage for up to a year as they move into the workforce and until they can either afford to purchase private insurance or become eligible for an employer-sponsored plan. The package also extends through FY17 the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting programs and funding for Community Health Centers.

The package would be partially paid for by making wealthier seniors pay more for Medicare. Congress had punted on a long-term SGR solution 17 times over the last decade, instead passing annual stopgap fixes to prevent pay cuts for Medicare physicians. The House passed the package in late March, with the Senate following suit on April 15. President Obama signed the bill on April 16.

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