HHS Makes $40 Million Available to Cover Uninsured Children

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media , July 7, 2009

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Monday that up to $40 million in grants are being made available for helping children in families who qualify for—but are not yet enrolled in—Medicaid or their state’s Children's Health Insurance Programs (CHIP). This grant announcement is the first cycle of outreach funding under the new Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) that was signed into law by President Obama in February.

"The grants are not specifically for states," Sebelius said in a teleconference on Monday. "They are for states [along with] local governments, providers, consumer groups, faith-based groups, community outreach organization, and advocacy groups."

The $40 million also will not be allocated on a per state basis, Sebelius added. "It really is based on the opportunities to reach particularly the most underserved population, the most neglected health group and the most creative proposals to tie in with current children's health plans."

While states have been successful in enrolling more eligible children for coverage under their Medicaid and CHIP initiatives, as many as 4 million children still may not be covered. "We'll be focused on targeting populations that historically don't get the care they need," Sebelius said.

All grant applicants will have to demonstrate a strong working relationship with their state's CHIP, she added. The grants will be worth between $25,000 and $1 million. "We expect to see a wide variety of projects from a broad spectrum of applicants."

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D), who participated in the teleconference, said that since 2007, 67,000 more children have been enrolled in Medicaid and his state's CHIP a 27% increase. However, about 180,000 children still remain uninsured in the state.

"In these tough economic times, when Medicaid and CHIP are straining state budgets, it would be easy to pull back on these efforts and even try to create barriers to enrollment as a budget management strategy," Ritter said. "We believe that when times get tough . . . they need to rely even more on safety nets services. It's critical that eligible families know about the services that are available to them."

The new law will provide a total of $100 million for outreach campaigns aimed at reducing the number of low income, uninsured children. The grants will be administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at jsimmons@healthleadersmedia.com.

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