CHIP: Off to a Slow Start
A new report from the National Governors' Association finds that the Children's Health Insurance Program is off to a slower-than-expected start, with only 828,000 of the 2.5 million children anticipated to enroll now participating in the program. The Congressional Budget Office "estimates that the states will spend only a quarter of what they expected to lay out this year, suggesting that initial enrollments have been well behind expectations," the Washington Post reports. And while some states have had their programs up and running for some time, several states, including Texas -- which has the second-largest number of uninsured children in the country -- have crawled out of the starting block. HCFA has not released enrollment data that was due in January, with HCFA administrator Nancy-Ann Min DeParle saying the agency is in the process of "collecting and analyzing enrollment data." She also noted that the Clinton administration has "launched an aggressive outreach program to identify more children who are eligible." And while HCFA was quick to approve many of the programs, some states have encountered logistical problems with implementation, which requires them to "appropriate money, redesign policies, reeducate eligibility workers and redo forms." Shelly Gehshan, program manager for the National Conference of State Legislatures, applauded the states' strides, saying, "People have unrealistic expectations of how fast government can make changes. It took a good 10 years for Medicare to mature as a program." Cindy Mann of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said, "There is some disappointment with the early results of CHIP ... but states are making significant strides in improving their systems" (Havemann, 4/13).
Illinois Gov. George Ryan (R) gave Illinois' KidCare program a boost yesterday, in what a Chicago Sun-Times editorial called an "extraordinary effort" to partner with the Chicago Public Schools to increase enrollment (4/13). "[T]housands of volunteers will man the 591 Chicago public schools on report-card pickup days ... to help eligible families fill out applications," the Chicago Tribune reported. The Pastor's Network, which includes 127 local churches, will also take part in outreach efforts among their congregations. Ryan announced a $1 million ad campaign, which will be featured on billboards, public-transportation posters and radios, and will enlist health centers and private insurers help to enroll children in exchange for $50 for each approved KidCare application (Grumman, 4/12). Ryan noted that only about 30,000 of an estimated 400,000 eligible children have been enrolled in the program to date (Novak, Sun-Times, 4/13).
The "only prospective contractors" for Kentucky Children's Health Insurance Program are "balking at a July 1 starting date," and are demanding higher-than-expected rates, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. The rates, said state Medicaid Commissioner Dennis Boynd, "are going to have to be negotiated in fairly hard-nosed fashion," and he added that the state was considering a phase-in of the program beginning July 1. The program is expected to extend coverage to 55,000 children through private, subsidized insurance. Dr. Tom Young, a Lexington physician who sits on a council that advises the Cabinet for Health Services on KCHIP issues, said that the bidders' predicament is understandable. "This is April. They still don't have a contract yet. You've got two months to get this up and going," he said (4/9).