Tax Reform Fight Flares at House CHIP Hearing

Republicans say finding 'pay fors' is tougher than it looks

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (Photo: House Energy) Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (Photo: House Energy)

House Democrats asked Thursday why they have to find spending cuts and revenue sources to pay for reauthorizing the Children's Health Insurance Program when House Republicans are not yet requiring "pay fors" for their tax reform effort.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., blasted House Republican leaders of budget discipline hypocrisy at a House Energy and Commerce Committee meeting. The committee was getting ready to polish and vote on H.R. 3921, the House Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization bill. Authorization for CHIP expired Saturday.

House Republican leaders have forced the CHIP reauthorization drafters to scrounge for CHIP reauthorization pay-fors, "while we have this looming debate over tax reform, none of which is paid for," Pallone said. "Republicans go back and forth on this all the time."

(Related: Trump Will Let Congress Decide on Tax Rate for Top Earners)

Republicans on the committee talked a little about their own frustration with the search for pay-fors, and the need to defend good pay-for ideas from colleagues.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., pointed out that his team has been somewhat cautious this time around about revealing CHIP reauthorization pay-for proposals, because, in the past, CHIP pay-for transparency has backfired.

When the House came up with CHIP pay-fors the last time around, "the Senate then stole our pay-fors," Upton recalled.

Members of the committee ended up voting 28-23 to advance H.R. 3921.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is just one of way two House committees that has jurisdiction over H.R. 3921.

The House Ways and Means Committee also has jurisdiction over the bill. Ways & Means has not yet scheduled a meeting on the bill.

The frustration over the CHIP reauthorization pay-for fight could be a rehearsal for the coming fight over tax-reform pay-fors, with members of Congress combing through the rules for life insurance, annuities, and other sectors and programs to find mechanisms for offsetting new spending and new tax breaks.

H.R. 3921

Rep. Michael Burges, R-Texas, the author of H.R. 3921, the Helping Ensure Access for Little Ones, Toddlers, and Hopeful Youth by Keeping Insurance Delivery Stable (HEALTHY KIDS) Act of 2017 bill, has proposed paying for part of the cost of CHIP reauthorization by requiring individuals over 65 who earn more than $500,000 per year to pay 100% of the cost of Medicare Part B premiums and Medicare Part D premiums.

The Medicare Part B program pays for physician services and outpatient services.

Medicare Part D pays for prescription drugs.

Medicare already "means tests" the premiums for high-income Part B enrollees.

AARP opposes making any Part B enrollees pay the full premium, arguing that some would choose to self-insure or find alternatives type of coverage, and that high-income enrollees' retreat from Medicare would weaken overall support for Medicare.

The Senate Finance Committee passed its own, bipartisan CHIP reauthorization bill earlier this week. That bill, S. 1827, the "KIDS Act of 2017" bill, would leave the current Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D premium requirements in place. That bill would use an adjustment to the federal formula for supporting state medical and social services programs to pay for CHIP reauthorization.

--- Read ACA Taxes Aren't Necessarily Going Away: GOP Senators on ThinkAdvisor.


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