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Investments in State-Based Advocacy Show Great Returns in Covering Uninsured Children

                Health insurance for children has become a major concern in the United States. In a time of economic depression, families throughout this country are struggling to provide adequate care for their children. That’s where the Children’s Health Insurance Program or CHIP comes into play. This program, which was created by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, seeks to provide matching funds in health insurance for families with children. The program’s history has encountered various obstacles. Starting in 1997, CHIP has offered these services in states all across the country that needed them. However, in 2007 President George W. Bush vetoed the program’s bill, claiming it would federalize health care and give the federal government too much power in regulating health insurance. With this limitation in place, the number of children that could be insured dropped. Then in 2009, President Barack Obama reauthorized the program by adding $32.8 billion and adding 4 million more children to be insured. Thus, CHIP’s efforts have been at work ever since. But how effective has the program been in recent years? The truth is, the program has made a modest impact at best. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_Children%27s_Health_Insurance_Program)

Children’s Health Insurance Program’s Inner Workings

The Children’s Health Insurance Program’s main goal is, as the name implies, to insure children with health care plans. This would include benefits such as:

  • Oral care such as dentists visits
  • Eye exams and glasses
  • The ability to choose doctors
  • Prescription drugs and vaccines
  • Mental health care
  • Hospital care and services
  • Lab tests
  • Special health needs treatment
  • Treatment of pre-existing conditions

(http://www.chipmedicaid.org/en/Benefits)

Part of this program is related to the Affordable Care Act, in which the motion seeks to make health care more readily available to people living in low incomes. The ACA provided an additional $40 million for both Medicaid and CHIP (http://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid-chip-program-information/by-topics/childrens-health-insurance-program-chip/childrens-health-insurance-program-chip.html).

In terms of costs for CHIP, enrollment fees are based upon a family’s income. They can be $50 or less per family, per year while co-pay for doctor visits and prescriptions for lower income families can go for $3 to $5 with higher income families being $20 to $35 (http://www.chipmedicaid.org/en/Costs).

Children’s Health Insurance Program and Today’s Medical Care

The shocking reality is that the majority of children in America are still uninsured. As it turns out, the Children’s Health Insurance Program may have the opposite effect of what was intended. According to the Census Bureau, the overall poverty line remains high with 15 percent of Americans and 1 in 5 children still living in poverty. The cause of this is closely related to the lack of insurance. It is estimated as of 2012, that nearly 14 percent of children living in poverty lacked health insurance which remained this way despite decreased rates for people under the age of 65. This goes against the standards set up by Medicaid and CHIP, which should by all means, provide America’s low-income families with the ability to insure their children. Despite this, there are at least 2.23 million uninsured children living in the poverty line.

The reason being is that more and more parents who are uninsured are more likely to have children who are uninsured. When CHIP was upheld by the Supreme Court, many provisions that would expand Medicaid were cut down. This severely limited the ability insure adults. The Government Accountability Office found that 84 percent of children had the exact same insurance status as their parents. So if a parent used Medicaid, so will his children. However, if is uninsured, so will his children as well (http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/26/when-parents-cant-enroll-in-medicaid-children-stay-uninsured/?ref=statechildrenshealthinsuranceprogramschip).

Even children with Medicaid and CHIP may be turned down by doctors. A study shows that children with Medicaid are either outright turned down or made to wait longer when consulting a doctor’s help, even for serious medical conditions. According to a study by The New England Journal of Medicine, 66 percent of those who had Medicaid-CHIP were denied appointments. In Illinois, children who had Medicaid and CHIP had less access to preventive health care than children insured by private health insurance (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/16/health/policy/16care.html).

Children’s Health Insurance Program’s Future

It’s not all bleak for the future of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. As of July 2013, the US government is said to give $32 million in grants to expand the program and get more low-income families insured. This is this help identify which children need the service the most and help them get the care they need. The United States Department of Health and Human Services claims the grant will range from $190,000 to $1 million and will focus on five main areas:

  • Ensuring that schools get more involved in efforts to enroll children and keep them in the insurance programs
  • Reducing health coverage disparities by promoting enrollment of children most likely to be uninsured, so that those with Medicaid and CHIP are not forced to wait or be denied treatments by doctors
  • Making the enrollment process for children in other public benefit programs such as nutritional programs much more fluid and easier
  • Improving the application process in order to provide high quality and reliable Medicaid and CHIP services in the communities that need them the most
  • Training and informing communities about the new application and enrollment processes. This will in turn help families understand this and help them get the help they need to insure their children

(http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=170953)

Another example of this can be found in Colorado’s Telluride Foundation. The organization has recently been given two major federal grants to help insure kids. The grants include an awarded $380,459 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to identify and enroll children eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The program will target children in San Miguel, Ouray, Montrose and Delta counties who are eligible for the health insurance but not currently enrolled. The main purpose of the grant is to reach out to schools and communities by focusing on enrollment and retention activities.  The Tri-County Health Network will hire and train outreach workers to connect with parents through local schools (http://www.telluridenews.com/articles/2013/07/15/news/doc51db41913cf8a395943012.txt).

 

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