State Health Department to Participate in National Initiative to Increase Coverage for Uninsured Children

Receives $1 million Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Grant to Help Maximize Children's Enrollment in Health Insurance

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 12, 2009) - The New York State Department of Health (DOH) will receive $1 million over four years from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to increase enrollment of eligible children in New York's Child Health Plus and Medicaid public health insurance programs, as well as to 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, but not enrolled, in public health insurance. In New York, 434,000 children are uninsured, and all are likely eligible for free or moderate-cost health insurance.

In an effort to significantly increase the number of children with health coverage, DOH is participating in a new national RWJF program, Maximizing Enrollment for Kids, in which the Department will receive funding and technical support to increase enrollment and retention in public health insurance programs.

Funding will also be provided to organizations in seven other states. RWJF program leaders said DOH was selected because New York has 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 from Congress's recent extension of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP); New York's version of that program is called Child Health Plus.

"One of our top priorities is to ensure that all children have access to comprehensive health care coverage," said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. "Participation in this initiative will allow New York to build on work we have already done to expand coverage and to streamline the enrollment and renewal processes, so that children can get and keep the health insurance they need to grow and develop to their full potential."

Under the direction of the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP), which serves as the national program office for Maximizing Enrollment for Kids, the program will help New York 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.

In 2008, Governor David A. Paterson and the State Legislature expanded income eligibility for Child Health Plus to 400 percent of the federal poverty level. As a result, the state estimates that all uninsured children and teens in New York are eligible for coverage through Child Health Plus and Medicaid.

"With this health insurance coverage, children can get the care they need when they need it, including check-ups, hospital care, vaccinations, prescription medication, doctor visits when they are sick, dental and vision care, emergency services and much more," said Deborah Bachrach, deputy commissioner for DOH's Office of Health Insurance Programs.

"While all Americans need health coverage, it is especially important for children," said John R. Lumpkin, M.D., M.P.H., senior vice president and director of the health care group at RWJF. "We are partnering with eight states across the nation to increase enrollment and use their experiences to help others."

As part of the RWJF program, DOH 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."

More information about New York's public health insurance programs for children is available on DOH's Web site at www.health.ny.gov/health_care/child_health_plus/. More information about RWJF Maximizing Enrollment for Kids is available at www.maxenroll.org.