Reflecting on the Success of Children’s Health Care Coverage

Today is the third anniversary of bipartisan legislation that strengthened the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known in Texas as CHIP. This anniversary provides a great opportunity to reflect on our progress and highlight the important successes we have to celebrate when it comes to extending health coverage to all children. In the three years since CHIP's reauthorization, the nation has made historic gains in covering kids. Thanks to CHIP and Medicaid, over 3 million Texas children can get the checkups and preventive care they need to stay healthy and see the doctor when they get sick or injured. Children across the country have benefitted from the law. In the past year alone, 25 states have reduced the red tape in their CHIP and Medicaid programs, so that more kids can get covered. While we won’t consider the job done until every child is covered, there is progress to celebrate: between 2007 and 2011, more than 800,000 formerly uninsured Texas children gained coverage.

One of the main reasons for these impressive gains in coverage happens behind the scenes: Texas’s Health and Human Services Commission, the agency responsible for processing paperwork for CHIP and Medicaid, has made great strides in improving efficiency and accuracy in the enrollment process for families. In Texas, we have cut red tape. Our state was once among the nation’s worst offenders for unnecessary processing delays and errors that left families who qualified for Medicaid or CHIP and played by all the rules, nonetheless, without access to health care for their children. Today, Texas is one of the country’s most improved states for processing benefits—something we can all be proud of. It means we are living up to our promise to families with children who need to see a doctor.

The “maintenance of eligibility” requirement in the health reform law has also helped countless Texans. The rule provides important stability for families facing economic uncertainty by ensuring states like Texas keep enrollment procedures that are already working for our families on the books.

And CHIP and Medicaid help more than just the families whose children receive care through the program. CHIP and Medicaid strengthen our economy. If Texas can make improvements to and enroll more children in CHIP, the state can begin to qualify for an annual Performance Bonus, which puts federal tax dollars back into our economy and protects local jobs.

We are encouraged by the progress that has been made but recognize that there is still more to do. We are working with state leaders to ensure that CHIP and Medicaid help even more uninsured children get the care they need to grow and thrive in 2012. Let’s celebrate this anniversary by committing to keep building on its success.

Contributed By: Christine Sinatra, Austin, TX