One year ago, President Obama signed the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA). Gov. Chris Gregoire was in the room, and since then, our state leaders have reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to covering all kids.
Over the past year, about 2.6 million more children nationwide – tens of thousands of them in Washington state – got health coverage through CHIP or Medicaid.
CHIPRA gave Washington state’s policymakers the support they needed to sustain Apple Health for Kids (the name of the health coverage program that serves our state’s children through CHIP and Medicaid). Federal funding from CHIPRA ensured that Washington state could provide coverage to children in families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. It also helped us pursue various ways of making Apple Health for Kids run efficiently. We did such a good job at streamlining the enrollment and renewal process, that Washington won a $7.5 million federal performance bonus.
We’ve made great strides, but we still have a ways to go before we keep our promise of covering all kids: About 78,000 children in our state remain uninsured.
To keep states on track toward covering all children, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced they will encourage state food stamp programs to share data that could identify uninsured children who might be eligible for health coverage through CHIP or Medicaid. This will help parents in Washington with uninsured children more easily enroll in Apple Health for Kids.
“We must make every effort to break down barriers so that the American people can better access the federal benefits that they qualify for,” Vilsack said in a news release. “The partnership we are announcing today will bring new cooperation between HHS and USDA so that families who qualify for food assistance can better access affordable health insurance for their children.”
The Children’s Alliance is urging state lawmakers to protect Apple Health for Kids – coverage that has proven to be a lifeline to families struggling to make ends meet as the recession lingers. It’s time to take a balanced approach to the budget challenges our state faces and come up with substantial new revenue to sustain vital services like Apple Health for Kids. Read more in our latest report, “Apple Health for Kids: A prescription for economic stability.”
And here’s a CHIPRA birthday wish from Jocelyn Guyer, co-executive director of Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families: How about a sibling named Health Reform?
– Liz Gillespie