CHIP: President to Unveil $2.7 Billion Enrollment Plan
President Clinton will announce today a new $2.7 billion initiative aimed at increasing the enrollment of uninsured children into the Children's Health Insurance Plan (CHIP), the Washington Post reports. The announcement follows closely on the heels of a report released by HHS showing that CHIP enrollment has increased by nearly 2 million children in the last fiscal year (Goldstein, 1/11). The five-year plan would overhaul enrollment practices, including a simplification of the application process and the use of school-lunch programs to identify those children eligible for the programs. States also would be allowed to provide coverage to potentially eligible children while the application is processed. In addition, the plan would expand coverage to include 19- and 20-year-olds (Pear, New York Times, 1/11). Noting the increase in enrollment, Chris Jennings, the White House health policy adviser, said, "The president feels that these numbers bode well for the future. But he also feels strongly that we need to provide additional tools for states to enroll kids and to eliminate barriers that have limited coverage" (Meckler, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/11).
Not So Fast
While Vice President Al Gore is expected to use the initiative to bolster his health care plan on the campaign trail, the proposal may receive a "cool" response in Congress. Republicans have charged that most states have failed to use much of the money previously allocated to those programs. In 1998 and 1999, Congress appropriated $4.2 billion each year for the program, but the states spent a total of $121 million in the first year and slightly less than $1 billion last year (New York Times, 1/11). Also, a report released this week by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured found that barriers to federally funded programs deter many parents who try to enroll their children. The study of 1,335 low-income parents found that two-thirds with eligible children tried but failed to enroll their children, with more than 50% citing a complicated application process (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/11). The U.S. Census reports that about 11 million of the currently 43 million uninsured Americans are children (Murray, Wall Street Journal, 1/11).