Congress passes spending bill to avoid shutdown, helps Minnesota in the process

It includes temporary funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program.

What's happening?

Congress passed a short-term spending bill late on Thursday night, which will keep the government running until the middle of January, ending the possibility of a Christmas shutdown.

A shutdown would have gone into effect on Friday had no deal been reached.

The most significant part of the bill?

That would be the funding approved for the Children's Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP.

The House and Senate agreed to pump almost $3 billion into the program that will keep it funded until March, although the AP reports they stopped short of approving long-term funding for the program.

Its funding had expired at the end of September and hadn't been re-authorized for the long-term despite CNN Money reporting it's popular on both sides of the aisle.

This prompted concern that children from lower income families would lose their health insurance next year unless states stepped in.

CHIP covers 9 million children whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private health coverage.

How does this help Minnesota?

Minnesota's budget office revealed earlier this month that the state is projecting a budget deficit of $188 million over the 2018-19 biennium.

And one of the reasons for this deficit is the federal government's failure to re-authorize CHIP, with the state adding an extra $178 million of spending to its budget to cover low-income children's health insurance in the event it 

Minnesota was one of the first states to run out of CHIP funding after Congress didn't re-authorize at the end of September.

It provides health coverage to around 100,000 Minnesotan children, the Star Tribune reports.

With Congress approving temporary funding for CHIP, it will reduce some of te $178 million Minnesota had planned to spend on it.

Should Congress approve long-term funding for the program in March, it would all but wipe out the Minnesota budget deficit being projected over the next two years.

The Associated Press notes that both Republicans and Democrats want to fund CHIP for a further five years, but disagree over how to pay for it.

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