A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analyst warned health policy watchers Monday not to think that they can easily squeeze billions of unused dollars from the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Rob Stewart told members of the Alliance for Health Reform that the extra $9.6 billion CHIP seems to have is just a budget accounting number.
The number has no effect on current federal spending or federal budget figures, Stewart said. Budget cutters cannot used the untapped spending authority to reduce the deficit, and advocates of expanding federal health programs cannot use the untapped authority to increase spending on other health programs, Stewart said.
“If such budget authority was made available for a new purpose resulting in outlays, CBO would estimate an increase in spending relative to that under current law,” Stewart said, according to a written version of his presentation posted on the CBO website.
The law that authorizes the government to run CHIP provides $19.1 billion in budget authority for fiscal year 2014, and it also creates an allotment formula based partly on the number of children who live in a state and its actual spending on health care.