KIDDIECARE: Western States Ponder Native American Access
Participants in this week's Western Summit on Indian Health Care in Salt Lake City are considering how best to use federal Children's Health Insurance Program dollars to provide health care to Native American children. According to the Salt Lake City Deseret News, "American Indian children were a specific focus of the" federal Kiddiecare law. States have several options in setting up Kiddiecare programs, but delivering services to tribal members, many of whom reside in rural areas, presents a significant barrier. In Utah, the state is contracting with private health plans in urban areas "and public health facilities in rural areas" to offer children's health coverage. Officials there are now trying to "figure out how tribes can access" these services. Utah Health Department "CHIP planner" Chad Westover said the Kiddiecare program offers an effective way to deliver needed care because "it provides both treatment and preventive services" at little to no cost to enrollees.
Judy Edwards, the Utah Health Department's liaison for Indian health care, noted that "making certain that American Indians can access both preventive and treatment services" is a governmental obligation. "It goes back to the treaties. Part of the negotiation for land was assuring health care and the legal obligation to provide health services has been tested. It's solid. How it is delivered is the challenge." Tribal, state and congressional officials attending the Western Summit "will formulate recommendations on how a collaboration between tribes and governments might provide" better access to health care, and their "suggestions will be given to policymakers and to the Western Governors Association, which has become increasingly involved with the issue." This year's summit is being "cosponsored for the first time by the" Kaiser Family Foundation (Collins, 8/25).
Officials in Columbus/Franklin County, Ohio, are planning to spend $2.9 million to get the word out about the state's new Kiddiecare program. The county has contracted with "a public relations firm to launch a media campaign this fall," and 12 "agencies at 79 sites will have applications and staff on duty to assist families" with enrollment. Altogether, local officials estimate that 15,000 to 21,000 children will be enrolled in Medicaid under the Kiddiecare outreach campaign (Mayhood, Columbus Dispatch, 8/25).
In Alabama, state officials believe "they will be doing well to enroll half of the 50,000 to 70,000 children and teens who are eligible starting Oct. 1" for the ALL Kids plan. State health officer Don Williamson "said applications will be handed out next month in public schools, hospitals and health department offices" (AP/Alabama Live, 8/26).