WASHINGTON â€” A key senator says he could support building on the one recent bipartisan breakthrough Congress has had lately â€”Â a six-year extension of the Childrenâ€™s Health Insurance Program.
Senate Finance Committee ChairmanÂ Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who helped created the program, said Wednesday he is “definitely open” to discussingÂ a proposal to fund the program an additional four years.
“In my view, if we can work together to pass a bill adding four years to the six already in place, that would be simply fantastic,” Hatch said on the Senate floor.
Lawmakers voted for the longest-everÂ extension of CHIP on Monday along with a spending bill to reopen and fund the federal government for three weeks after a three-day shutdown.
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A 10-year extension of the program would save the government more money, decreasing deficits byÂ $6 billion compared to the six-year extension’s nearly $1 billion in savings, according to analyses by the nonpartisanÂ Congressional Budget Office.Â That’s because the alternatives to providing coverage through CHIP during that period would cost more.
â€œI can only hope that we will move forward with principled bipartisanship that makes CHIP permanent, saving taxpayers billions of dollars,â€ Sen. Ron Wyden, of Oregon, the committee’s ranking Democrat,Â said in a statement after the spending bill passed the Senate.
CHIP isÂ a federal-state matching program thatÂ serves nearly nine million moderately low-income children who are not eligible for Medicaid but can’t afford private coverage.
After the program’sÂ funding expired Sept. 30, Congress in December authorized a short-term patch of $2.85 billion for the program through March, though it wasÂ unclear how long those funds will last.
Hatch said aÂ six-year extension gives families security and certainty and allows states to plan their budgets for several years.
“That’s a big deal,” he said. “Let us keep that in mind as we look for ways to do more.”