KIDDIECARE: CDF Finds Plodding CHIP Implementation
The federally-funded Children's Health Insurance Program is "off to a good start," but most states have been sluggish in implementing their programs, according to a Children's Defense Fund report released Tuesday. States get roughly $4 billion through CHIP's annual federal grants to cover uninsured children in low-wage, working families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid, but too low to afford private insurance. As of April 30, 43 states had either submitted a CHIP plan to the Health Care Financing Administration for approval or completed state legislative action on a plan. The CDF study found "most states" are acting to help large numbers of uninsured children, with 20 guaranteeing or likely to cover kids in families with incomes up to or above $27,300 for a family of three. Seven states are covering children up to $25,253 for a family of three and all but three states are extending coverage to children through age 18. Sixty-six percent of the 38 states that have made a decision about covered benefits are using the Medicaid benefits package, which provides coverage unique to children's health needs. In addition, 24 of the 32 states with specific policies on cost-sharing are exempting families with incomes at or less than $20,475 from paying premiums and 26 states are waiving copayments for doctor visits.
A Slow Start
Despite the strides made in covering uninsured children under CHIP, the CDF found most states will not implement new children's health coverage until July 1998 or later, almost a year after funding was made available for the program. Some states also are not expanding their coverage beyond "very minimal levels." According to the study, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas -- home to nearly one in six children uninsured children in the nation -- have "merely sped up Medicaid coverage of poor teens with family income up to $13,650 for a family of three," leaving "millions of uninsured children with family incomes above poverty uncovered through CHIP." In addition, nine state are charging "unaffordable premiums" of $200 a year or more (CDF release, 5/12).