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Divisions Over Obamacare Persist In Congress

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As Congress returns to work following the August recess, partisan divisions over the Affordable Care Act continue to impact health care policy.

Some have suggested the bad blood created during the Republicans' failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, may hinder bipartisan progress on items usually considered uncontroversial, Reuters reports.

One of these measures is the Childhood Health Insurance Program, which provides funding to assist children and pregnant women with health care costs.

Usually CHIP is passed with bipartisan congressional support.

"Anything having to do with health care after the process we've gone through is subject to being controversial," one lobbyist told Reuters.

CHIP provides federal funding to 9 million low- and middle-income children, reports The Hill. The funding runs out at the end of September.

Congress did not take any steps to renew the program before the summer break. This means states may have to impose some enrollment restrictions due to the mounting uncertainty.

"For a state, they're really trying to almost read the tea leaves of will Congress, won't Congress, extend CHIP funding on time -- and using that to dictate some very difficult and practical decisions they have to make, which is just really tough," Kelly Whitener, an associate professor at Georgetown University's Center for Children and Families, told The Hill.

But a GOP aide said the extension would be agreed.

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"There is a bipartisan commitment to getting CHIP and extenders done," a senior aide said. "There's a lot of agreement on policy. No one wants to see unnecessary disruption or angst for beneficiaries and burden and hassle for plans and states."

Democratic Rep. Gene Green of Texas agreed.

"I think we can move pretty fast once we get an agreement," Green said.

The issues Congress still needs to agree on include how long the extension will last, if any other provisions will be attached to the bill, and whether enhanced federal funding introduced under Obamacare should be continued for CHIP. The program was last authorized in 2015 for two years.

Congress will also soon need to take action to stabilize the insurance market for the AHA. Insurers have imposed significant premium hikes over recent months and the Trump administration is not enforcing the individual mandate, which fines anyone who fails to purchase health insurance.

On top of this, Democrats and Republicans have until the end of September to raise the debt ceiling and pass a budget to fund government operations. The coming weeks will be a busy legislative period.

Sources: Reuters, The Hill / Featured Image: Lawrence Jackson/ Commons / Embedded Images: Glenn Fawcett/Wikimedia Commons, Caleb Smith/Office of the Speaker of the House/Wikimedia Commons

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