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Re-up of Children’s Health Insurance Law Turns Two, Helps Millions

February 7, 2011

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Two million more children nationwide covered under Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). It's a victory many in Kentucky are celebrating on the two-year anniversary of the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act. The federal program has allowed the state to continue to provide health coverage for low-income children, thereby lessening the number of uninsured kids.

Anne Joseph, director of Covering Kentucky Kids and Families, says state leaders have made it easier to get and keep kids enrolled in the state program, K-CHIP. The investment, she says, is paying off.

"It's a win-win for the Commonwealth. It's a win-win for the kids. It will cost less if kids have care up front. It is a building block for education in the state. It's got everything positive going for it."

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear eased the process for families to enroll in K-CHIP in 2008. Since then, more than 51,000 children have been enrolled in K-CHIP or Medicaid. Kids up to age 19, with family incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, are eligible for K-CHIP. (That equates to annual earnings of $44,000 for a family of four.)

The governor also removed the $20 monthly premium families were required to pay into K-CHIP. Advocacy groups claimed it was a financial barrier for many families and added little revenue to state coffers.

Lacey McNary, deputy director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, urges the state to focus now on online enrollment, allowing continuous eligibility, and matching application information with existing systems in order to get and keep more families in the program.

"For instance, the social security system already has a lot of information about people. Can we somehow data-match to that when people sign up, to make it even easier for them to stay enrolled in the program?"

The executive director of Kentucky Voices for Health, Jodi Mitchell, notes it's more important than ever to families who rely on K-CHIP and Medicaid that those programs run efficiently.

"Families are really busy trying to make ends meet. Jumping through any extra hurdles to get health care coverage is very difficult at these challenging times. We recognize that and want to help secure affordable coverage for kids. We'd like to see all of Kentucky's kids covered."

The federal Children's Health Insurance Program is authorized until 2019, but only funded until 2015. According to federal health officials, CHIP and Medicaid together have served more than 42 million children who would have otherwise lacked access to regular medical care.

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY