Louisiana Increases Health Coverage For Uninsured Children

Louisiana is one of eight states, from a pool of 28 total applicants, that will receive funding and support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to increase enrollment of eligible children in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program – called LaCHIP in Louisiana – and keep kids enrolled as long as they are eligible.

According to the most recent government data, 8.7 million children are uninsured in the United States, with most of these children eligible for public health insurance, but not enrolled. In Louisiana, the most recent estimates are that 64,355 children remain uninsured with more than 78 percent of them eligible for health insurance at little or no cost. In an effort to significantly decrease the number of uninsured children, a new national Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program, Maximizing Enrollment for Kids, will provide funding and technical support to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, which manages Louisiana Medicaid and LaCHIP.

According to program leaders, DHH was one of eight states selected from among 28 states applying for the grant because Louisiana demonstrated a strong commitment to increasing children’s enrollment in public coverage programs, even in the face of difficult economic times. The Maximizing Enrollment for Kids program is being launched as states prepare to receive more federal support for their efforts to insure kids following the recent Congressional extension of state’s CHIPs.

“We will not be content until we have enrolled every eligible child, which is a prerequisite for increased access to health care and ultimately better health outcomes for Louisiana citizens,” said DHH Secretary Alan Levine. “We are grateful for this assistance from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to help us achieve this goal.”

Under the direction of the National Academy for State Health Policy, which serves as the national program office for Maximizing Enrollment for Kids, the program will help Louisiana officials strengthen systems, policies and procedures to maximize enrollment and retention for eligible children. The program will measure the impact of these changes and will share findings nationwide throughout the four-year initiative.

LaCHIP offers health care plans for uninsured Louisiana children up to age 19 at little or no cost to their families. Eligibility is based on family size and income. For example, beginning April 1 a family of four can earn as much as $55,000 and be eligible.

“While all Americans need health coverage, it is especially important for children. Making sure that kids have access to all their checkups and immunizations, as well as the care they need when they get sick, is critical to help them grow and learn,” said John R. Lumpkin, MD, MPH, senior vice president and director of the health care group at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Congress and the president have taken action to provide the resources for these kids to have health insurance; now we need to do our part. We are partnering with eight states across the nation to increase enrollment and use their experiences to help others.”

DHH will receive:

• An assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the state’s enrollment and renewal systems, policies and procedures;

• Tailored technical assistance to help the state develop and implement plans to increase enrollment and renewal of eligible children;

• Participation in peer-to-peer learning to share information with other states about challenges and effective strategies; and

• Assistance with data collection and analysis to help the state measure its progress.

“In order to make inroads in reducing the ranks of uninsured children, we need to help states apply best practices for enrolling eligible children and keeping them enrolled for as long as they qualify,” said Catherine Hess, the program’s director and a senior program director at NASHP. “This program also will help us and all states to learn more about the most effective ways to streamline enrollment and increase retention to cover more eligible children and youth.”

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