LOS ANGELES - The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced $206 million in awards to 15 states that were able to significantly boost children’s enrollment in Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California). Unfortunately, California will not receive any award money.
The federal Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 set up two conditions for earning these performance bonuses: 1) streamlining the enrollment process, by enacting at least five of eight specific strategies, and 2) meeting ambitious targets for increasing enrollment.
California has met the first requirement but not the second. According to an analysis from the Department of Health Care Services, children’s enrollment is approximately 24,000 short of the targeted goal. Because the state didn’t meet the target, officials did not even apply for the federal award.
It’s a shame that California is on the “naughty” and not the “nice” list. California forfeited millions of dollars in federal funding to other states—sorely needed funds that could have helped provide critical health insurance for California’s children. The winning states face tough budgets just like California does , but they recognized that in hard times it is more important than ever to cover uninsured kids, and the federal government rewarded that commitment.
an estimated 1.5 million uninsured Californian children; at least 700,000 of those children are already eligible for state coverage programs, but not yet enrolled. (A county-by-county chart of uninsured, enrolled, and eligible children is available atwww.100percentcampaign.org/publications.) California must do a better job of getting the word out to parents and providing health coverage for eligible children.
The 15 states that received bonuses took aggressive steps to find the eligible children through active outreach and marketing. California has taken significant steps to ease the enrollment process, but there are too many families that aren’t aware that affordable coverage is available for their children. Unfortunately, effective outreach programs have fallen victim to state budget cuts in recent years.
Children’s advocates across the state joined in a “Health for the Holidays” campaign, publicizing a hotline at 1-877-KIDS-NOW to help parents enroll eligible children. Children in families with income up to roughly $46,000 annually (for a family of three) can qualify for affordable insurance. But the state needs to use its megaphone to get the word out to parents, too.
We know that California can do better. Children’s advocates look forward to working with Governor-elect Brown and his incoming administration to ensure California is doing all it can to provide children with critical health coverage—including taking advantage of every opportunity for federal funding.