CHILDREN’S HEALTH INSURANCE: Clinton Steps Up Outreach Efforts
President Clinton, joined by first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, called for "accelerated" efforts yesterday "to extend health insurance to children who lack it," USA Today reports. In a speech at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC, the president urged "states, businesses, federal agencies and parents" to help ensure that the recently enacted Children's Health Insurance Program (Kiddiecare) succeeds in extending coverage "to 5 million of the nation's 10 million uninsured kids over the next five years" (Findlay, 2/19). Clinton also ordered eight federal agencies -- the Social Security Administration and the departments of Agriculture, Interior, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Labor and Treasury -- "to make a concerted effort to enroll 3 million uninsured children in Medicaid," the Los Angeles Times reports. The president directed the agencies to develop strategies for reaching eligible children and to "identify any laws or regulations that thwart coverage" (2/19). Clinton further urged Congress to approve his budget request for added funds to support the Medicaid outreach effort. "I call on Congress to pass the new funds I am requesting in this balanced budget to help states publicize their new child health programs and their child centers and enroll the children in Medicaid automatically, even as they wait for final approval of their applications" (transcript, 2/18).
Children's Health Imperative
Speaking yesterday, Hillary Rodham Clinton "said it was particularly imperative to educate poor parents that their children be covered by Medicaid." She said, "Unless they come here to the hospital, where someone can help them with financial assistance, they may not even know they are eligible for Medicaid" (Ross, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/19). "I still have a hard time believing that this country -- with the finest health care system in the world -- cannot figure out how to give affordable, quality health insurance coverage to every single child in America," President Clinton said. Reuters/Washington Post reports that the president's "steps are the latest in a long series ... to expand coverage gradually after his effort to reform the U.S. health care system to offer universal coverage collapsed in 1994" (2/19).
Clinton "also announced that South Carolina and Colorado had won federal approval for use of some of the $24 billion in" federal Kiddiecare dollars (Reuters/Post2/19). The two states join Alabama as the only states to have their Kiddiecare programs approved by the federal government. The Charleston Post & Courier reports that "South Carolina will expand its [Medicaid] program to provide coverage to all children whose families earn 150% of the federal poverty level" -- bringing coverage to an additional 75,000 children (Piacente, 2/19). The Columbia State reports that South Carolina will provide $3.5 million in state funds, and three hospital systems -- Palmetto Richland Memorial, Greenville and McLeod -- will each contribute $1 million to draw down $24.5 million in federal Kiddiecare dollars (2/18). Colorado will offer coverage to uninsured children "through a non-Medicaid program," Reuters/Post reports (2/19). By expanding its existing managed care system to low-income children, the state hopes to insure an additional 23,000 children with family incomes up to 185% of the federal poverty level. Colorado could receive up to $42 million from the federal government this year. "We are pleased Colorado is ready to move ahead in providing the health care coverage that is so critical to a bright future for the state's children," said HCFA Administrator Nancy-Ann Min DeParle. HHS noted that Missouri, Pennsylvania, New York, California, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, Illinois, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Oklahoma and New Jersey all have submitted Kiddiecare plans to the federal government for approval (HHS release, 2/18).
In his speech, Clinton announced "$23 million in private foundation commitments and other new private sector initiatives to facilitate increasing child access to health care coverage" (CongressDaily, 2/18). "I'm pleased to announce that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Kaiser Family Foundation have committed more than $23 million to finding better ways to expand coverage and outreach efforts. ... And along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Hospital Association, the National Association of Education, all have launched their own efforts to target and enroll uninsured children. And I thank them." The president saluted Bell Atlantic for establishing a toll-free number "that will direct families to state agencies in charge of Medicaid" and Safeway supermarkets for printing the toll-free number on shopping bags. Clinton further cited the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association for distributing information about children's health programs "whenever parents pick up prescriptions" (transcript, 2/18).