What will happen with SCHIP reauthorization?

The congressional delay in reauthorizing the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) has, frustratingly, caused states to put plans for covering additional children on hold until future funding is assured. What are state Medicaid directors likely to see going forward, in terms of reauthorization of SCHIP?

It's unclear how health reform efforts will play out, but there are indications that there will be a relatively quick reauthorization of the SCHIP program. "States very much like the stability and predictability of federal SCHIP funding levels that the vetoed bills would have provided, as opposed to what we have now, which is just a short-term extension," says Edwin Park, a senior fellow in the health policy department at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Trish Riley, director of the Governor's Office of Health Policy and Finance in Augusta, Maine, says that the fiscal environment for states "has changed dramatically as we waited out the Bush administration's resistance to a significant SCHIP re-authorization. The long-awaited reauthorization of SCHIP, if it includes new opportunities to reach higher-income children and their parents, will require state match-new funds that may not be available any longer."

Elizabeth Johnson, Kentucky Medicaid Commissioner, says Kentucky has decided to be proactive when it comes to children's health insurance coverage and not wait for reauthorization.

Through Governor Steve Beshear's KCHIP outreach program, Kentucky is actively enrolling additional eligible children in the program.

An estimated 60,000 eligible children aren't enrolled in KCHIP or Medicaid, so the state has set a goal of having 35,000 more children enrolled in KCHIP or Medicaid by 2011.

The outreach program consists of a new web site (www.kidshealth.ky.gov), easier enrollment, improved efforts to retain children currently enrolled, and significant education and outreach efforts. Here are some changes that were made:

• A face-to-face interview with a state caseworker no longer is a requirement to enroll. Prospective families can apply online, request an application over the phone, or send a mail-in request via postcard.

• An advertising/marketing campaign is under way as well, which incorporates print (fliers, brochures, postcards, and posters) and radio advertising.

• Training is being provided across the state to case workers, school resource center directors, and medical office managers to assist parents who want to enroll their child. 

"This outreach effort will have an additional financial impact on Kentucky Medicaid's budget," Ms. Johnson acknowledges. "However, we are committed to enrolling all eligible children and seeing that they receive quality health care, as this is an investment in Kentucky's future."

Contact Ms. Johnson at (502) 564-4321.