Maybe next year for kids’ health care

December 23, 2017 GMT

Congress just pushed health care funding for some of the youngest and poorest Minnesotans to next years to-do list.

Lawmakers dashed out of town for the holidays, leaving the federal government with just enough money to keep running through mid-January and to fund the Childrens Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through March.

The stopgap funding bill squeaked through the House and Senate over the protests of Democrats furious that Congress was leaving town without fully reauthorizing a program that provides health coverage for 9 million needy children nationwide, including more than 100,000 children, infants and pregnant women in Minnesota. The CHIP program lapsed in October, and Minnesota was one of the first states to begin running low on funds.

All three Minnesota Republican House members voted for the funding bill. Minnesotas House and Senate Democrats voted no including departing Sen. Al Franken, who cast his final vote against it.

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Minnesota has already begun dipping into the general fund to keep its childrens health services funded, although the state Department of Human Services will not be able to say exactly how many state dollars it is spending until January. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also redistributed funds to help the state get through the first quarter of 2018.

Minnesota is also waiting for Congress to act on a legislative fix that would spare the state from some $300 million in federal cuts to low-income health care. A vote on a bipartisan fix was pushed to January.