Federal grants aim to boost CHIP, Medicaid enrollment

HHS is investing $32 million to help organizations enlist eligible children under ACA coverage expansions.

By — Posted July 12, 2013

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Community health centers, schools, state agencies and nonprofits across the country are receiving additional federal dollars to get more eligible children to sign up for public health insurance programs.

The Dept. of Health and Human Services announced July 2 that it was providing nearly $32 million in grants to 41 organizations in 22 states to help identify and enroll children in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (link). “No parent should have to think twice to take their child to see a doctor because the cost is too high,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during a same-day teleconference.

The funds were authorized by the Affordable Care Act and the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009. Sebelius said the awards will be used to hire new staff, ensure that health information technology helps modernize outreach strategies, and address language and literacy barriers that may prevent children from enrolling in such programs.

Arizona-based Pima Community Access Program plans to use a nearly $1 million award to help four counties prepare for the coming changes in the health insurance market. “We’ll be using the grant to train 600 organizations in our core counties to help families with Oct. 1 enrollment,” said Michal Goforth, the program’s executive director, during the HHS teleconference.

Enrollment assistance efforts pay off, Goforth said. Pima previously had collaborated with the Arizona Medicaid program to operate a special CHIP enrollment hotline that ended up enlisting 26,000 additional children over a six-month period.

Another organization that received a grant of just less than $1 million was the Family Health Centers of San Diego. The federally qualified health center will use application assistants to enroll children in Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program, through community health clinics.

Outreach plans for private side

It’s not yet known how many additional children will enroll in CHIP or Medicaid as a result of these grants, Cindy Mann, deputy administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said during the teleconference.

Sebelius said HHS was drawing from the previous enrollment and outreach successes of Medicaid and CHIP to guide upcoming participation in the ACA’s private health insurance exchanges. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that the rate of uninsured children decreased from 8.9% in 2008 to 6.6% in 2012, mainly through coverage gains in these public programs.

“Starting Oct. 1, new health insurance marketplaces will open in every state,” Sebelius said. “We will be working with partners across the country to let people know of new coverage options in the fall.”

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