Idaho’s CHIP Makes Enrollment Progress, But Still Struggles to Sign Up Uninsured Children
Enrollment figures for Idaho's CHIP program have "soared past the state's July 2002 goal almost two years early," the Spokane Spokesman-Review reports. Almost 80,000 children are insured either under CHIP or through traditional Medicaid, but an estimated 78,000 children -- 25,000 of whom are thought to be CHIP-eligible -- still are uninsured. A task force called Healthy Outcomes for Youth, made up of "several prominent people in the social services community," brainstormed ways to enroll more children in CHIP. As a result, the Department of Health and Welfare shortened the CHIP application from 17 pages to four and extended the amount of time children could receive CHIP benefits before having to reapply from one month to one year. The task force also launched four other efforts, including giving out applications, fliers and posters at school registration booths; encouraging pediatric care providers to talk to parents about the program; publicizing the program in the lobby of the Coeur d'Alene Pediatrics Clinic; and launching an "advertising spree" in newspapers and on television.
Despite the successful enrollment drive, insuring children remains a problem. Kristina Woodman, owner of the Coeur d'Alene Day Care and Preschool, said that the program's income cap -- 150% of the poverty level -- is a "major barrier." She added, "I would like to see the income requirements upped a little bit." Karen Cotton, Kootenai Medical Center's outreach coordinator, said that lawmakers might consider raising that cap to 175%. Another enrollment issue is that many parents are unaware of the program or do not know they might qualify. The Health and Welfare department has said it "was slow in getting the word out" about the program, fearing that its spending would "outstrip available matching funds," the Spokesman-Review reports. The state must contribute $2 for every $8 the federal government contributes to the program. Furthermore, although the application has been shortened, it is now "so short" that caseworkers have to ask "many invasive questions to determine ... whether applicants are eligible for other [public] programs," a process that potentially could discourage parents. Even parents who do sign their children up might encounter barriers, as "almost every local physician isn't accepting new Medicaid patients," the Spokesman-Review reports. Pediatrician Dr. Terence Neff said that many doctors are "leery of low reimbursements." In addition, some of those who do secure appointments have "complained of poor treatment by physician staff," the Spokesman-Review reports (Ross, Spokane Spokesman-Review, 12/4).