CHILDREN’S HEALTH: HHS Expands Outreach to Uninsured
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala yesterday announced a new initiative to help states enroll three million uninsured children in state health insurance programs. The new initiatives are designed to complement the support states receive as part of the Children's Health Insurance Program signed into law in August 1997. The funding will be included in President Clinton's FY 1999 budget. Shalala said, "My department is already helping states with outreach through the new CHIP program. But with millions of children needing health insurance in families that cannot afford private coverage, the president wants to step up this effort even more."
Widening the Net
The proposal includes several new approaches to increase outreach efforts. One initiative expands the "presumptive eligibility" program that allows workers in certain locations to register children for immediate, temporary Medicaid coverage while formal applications are being processed. Currently, workers in organizations such as Head Start are authorized to grant immediate Medicaid coverage; the new proposal will expand that authority to schools, child care resource and referral centers and child support enforcement programs. Another proposed initiative will simplify access to a $500 million outreach fund established by Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). To date, few states have accessed TANF funds, set up specifically to provide Medicaid assistance for children who lost cash aid under Welfare reform. The new plan allows for Medicaid reimbursement for $9 out of every $10 spent by states on all qualified uninsured children, not just those who lost welfare benefits. The proposal will add $25 million to the TANF fund and remove its "sunset date" of 2000. The new outreach plans were detailed in a letter to state health officials from Health Care Financing Administration head Nancy-Anne Min DeParle and acting administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration Earl Fox, M.D. (HHS release, 1/27).