HHS commits $49 million to increase health care coverage for children

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Photo: FS Productions/Getty Images

The administration made an effort to expand health care coverage for young people this week when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, awarded $49 million to organizations trying to reduce uninsured rates among children, parents and families.

The agency said it plans to invest in outreach and enrollment through Medicaid’s Connecting Kids to Coverage program. Beneficiaries were funded through the Insurance Benefit Stability for Littles, Toddlers and Hopeful Young People Act 2017 (HEALTHY KIDS Act). The HEALTHY KIDS Act provides ongoing funding for outreach and enrollment to reduce the number of children who are eligible but not enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP.

Grantees will provide enrollment and renewal assistance to children and their families, as well as expectant parents, to promote better maternal and child health outcomes.

CMS has issued 36 cooperative agreements in 20 states through the Connecting Kids to Coverage program. Recipients — including state and local governments, tribal organizations, federal health safety net organizations, nonprofits, and schools — will each receive up to $1.5 million over three years to help advance Medicaid and CHIP enrollment and retention.

WHAT IS THE IMPACT

Recipients will participate in national Connecting Kids to Coverage campaign efforts, including the national back-to-school initiative, year-round enrollment initiative, and new initiatives focused on individual retention in Medicaid and CHIP.

CMS said this work will be critical as states prepare to resume normal Medicaid and CHIP operations once the COVID-19 public health emergency is over.

Grantees will also work on several unique activities of their own. They can: engage schools and other youth-serving programs; close demographic health disparities by targeting communities with low coverage; use social media to conduct virtual outreach and registration support activities; and using parent mentors and community health workers to help families enroll in Medicaid and CHIP, maintain coverage, and address social determinants of health.

THE GREAT TREND

According to CMS, of the 4 million uninsured American children, 2.3 million are eligible for Medicaid and CHIP – although many families are unaware they are eligible or have trouble enrolling.

There are also pronounced disparities. Native American and Alaska Native children have the highest rates of uninsurance (11.8%), followed by those who are Hispanic (11.4%) and non-Hispanic blacks (5.9%).

Targeting new parents and expectant parents may also lead to increased child enrollment, as infants born to people on Medicaid and CHIP are automatically considered eligible for one year, CMS said.

REGISTRATION

“At HHS, it is a top priority to make high-quality health care accessible and affordable for every American,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Last year, thanks to unprecedented investments in outreach and enrollment efforts, a record 14.5 million people signed up for healthcare coverage through the ACA Marketplace. With the investment today’s milestone for children and parents, we’re going to redouble our efforts to cover families – and give them the peace of mind that comes with it.”

Twitter: @JELagasse
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