Congress' failure to pass CHIP funding may have been partly or largely due to the failed effort by Senate Republican leaders in the last weeks of September to pass a last-ditch bill that would have repealed and replaced key parts of the Affordable Care Act.
The deadline for that repeal bill was also last Saturday. While GOP leaders ultimately did not bother holding a vote on it because it would have been defeated, Democrats have blamed the repeal effort for delaying passing legislation to fund CHIP.
Alker said "it's unfortunate" that Congress "is acting so late that they have to move everything so quickly" on bills that would continue to fund CHIP.
But, Alker also said "we're encouraged" by the introduction of the House's Energy and Commerce bill on Monday night that would extend CHIP.
"This is some good news," she said.
Alker noted that the overall policy goal in that bill "very closely mirrors the bipartisan agreement within the Senate" on CHIP funding.
The Washington Post noted late Monday that the Senate's bill, which is going through the Finance Committee, has avoided for now the "sticky issue of how to pay for" two years of extra CHIP funding.
But the House's bill, which the Energy and Commerce Committee released Monday, calls for a series of measures to fund CHIP.
Those include the higher Medicare premium rates for wealthier people, allowing states to take Medicaid coverage away from people who win a lottery, and reducing the amount of time that Obamacare customers can avoid losing coverage once they stop paying their monthly premium. Those measures are projected to generate more than $11 billion in funds.
Another almost $10 billion is projected to come from shifting money set aside for Obamacare's prevention and public health fund to community health centers, and from changes that would help state Medicaid programs avoid medical costs from people who have health coverage from other sources.
Alker said, "To get CHIP done quickly, which needs to happen, [Congress] needs bipartisan agreement."
She said that while there is such agreement on the overall goal of continuing to fund CHIP, there may not be such cross-party agreement on some of the ways to pay for that funding as detailed in the House bill.
However, that bill could be changed in coming days as members of the Democratic minority in the House weigh in.
"I'm cautiously optimistic," Alker said when asked if she expected a bill to be passed relatively soon.