For the second year in a row, Colorado has received a significant grant from the federal government (funded under the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act) to help fund the state’s Medicaid system. A year ago, Colorado received $13.7 million. Last week, Colorado got $26.1 million – the third highest amount awarded to any of the states that qualified for the performance bonuses this time around. Colorado was one of the states with an enrollment increase of more than 10%, which qualified for a higher “Tier 2” bonus award. The program awarded a total of over $296 million at the end of 2011, and it was spread across 23 states, as opposed to only 15 that qualified a year earlier.
In order to qualify for a bonus, a state has to implement at least five of the eight provisions that have been proven to increase enrollment and retention numbers for Medicaid and CHIP, and the state has to also prove that they have had a significant increase in the number of children enrolled in Medicaid during the year.
The expansion of Medicaid and CHIP in Colorado has not been without controversy, and there are those who question the wisdom of making it easier for parents to enroll their kids in public health insurance programs. But we know that access to health insurance is one of the predictors of population’s overall health outcome, and Colorado is obviously taking that seriously.
CHIPRA was signed into law in 2009, and since that time we’ve increased the number of children with health insurance by 1.2 million. According to HHS, that increase is all because of higher enrollment in public health insurance programs like CHIP and Medicaid. In 2008, 91% of American children had health insurance. By the first half of 2011, that number had increased to 93%.
Obviously the reauthorization of CHIP is working to improve access to health insurance for America’s kids. Now we just have to see if we can continue to fund our public health insurance programs, and work to make sure that access to health insurance translates to realistic access to health care. But in the initial step of expanding access to health insurance for kids, kudos to Colorado.