State rewarded for health coverage progress

Washington received $7.5 million for progress in enrolling uninsured children in Medicaid.

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Washington state was awarded $7.5 million for making significant progress in enrolling uninsured children in Medicaid, officials said today.

The state also has improved access to the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Washington is one of nine states to receive the first round of performance bonuses for boosting enrollments in the two programs, according to a press release.

Funding for the "performance bonuses" was included in legislation signed into law by President Obama in February.

"Today, we're happy to reward states that have taken important steps to help insure more children and made a real difference in the lives of families across the country," Sebelius said. "These awards will provide crucial support and help states continue to serve children and families."

Gov. Chris Gregoire said the award is recognition that Washington is in the forefront of making children's health coverage a priority. "But the real value of the award is that in a time of deep economic uncertainty, these extra funds will help us continue our effort to ensure that all of Washington's children have health insurance. No child should ever have to go without health care."

The money comes at a critical time for Washington, noted Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a senior member of the Senate Health Committee.

"With state budget realities threatening safety net services, the federal government needs to recognize the steps the state has already taken to support its most vulnerable residents, she said.

"Our state has done a great job of insuring thousands of new kids under the CHIP program. This additional funding will help ease the financial burden that comes with those strides," added Murray.

Other states receiving funds today include Alabama, Alaska, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico and Oregon. Awards vary by state and total $72.6 million this fiscal year. The bonuses will support state budgets and help ensure states may continue to provide coverage to children.

To qualify for the bonus, states must have adopted at least five program features, such as providing 12 months of continuous eligibility, using a joint application for both Medicaid and CHIP and streamlining eligibility renewal processes, meant to encourage enrollment and retain eligible children. States must also be able to document significant increases in Medicaid enrollment among children over the course of the year.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/fromthestorageroom.

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