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Medicaid and CHIP: Families Can Apply at Any Time – So Why Wait?

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS)

May 04, 2015

By: Vikki Wachino, Director, Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services

It's so important for children to get the health care they need, when they need it. That's why our Connecting Kids to Coverage Campaign is featuring a "year-round enrollment" message. We want families to know that they can apply for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) at any time - there's no deadline. And, generally, children who are found eligible can enroll and begin getting the health benefits that every child needs.

As a nation, we have made significant progress in reducing the number of uninsured children, and since most uninsured children are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP, enrollment in these programs has been a strong force behind our success. A new Urban Institute analysis of data from the 2013 American Community Survey shows that nationally 88.3 percent of eligible children are enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP. That's up from less than 82 percent in 2008. What's more, 22 states and DC have participation rates above 90 percent, demonstrating that we can get even closer to the goal of enrolling all eligible children. The steps states are taking to simplify enrollment and our collective efforts to reach out and enroll eligible children are working. You can find the Medicaid and CHIP participation rate in your state here.

What does it mean for families to get health coverage for their children? Jessica Olivares, a Las Vegas mother of three, knows the answer first-hand. She and her husband, Gabriel, could not afford to put their children on Gabriel's health plan at work. Jessica found assistance at Positively Kids, a community organization that, under our Connecting Kids to Coverage grant program, helps families sign up for health coverage. The children were enrolled in Medicaid -- and when they needed health care, they got it. One of the Olivares boys was able to have painful wisdom teeth extracted and the other got treatment for a sports injury. In addition, since Medicaid covers preventive care, all three Olivares children had their eyes examined and were prescribed glasses. Jessica says, with health coverage, "the feeling of relief is indescribable. And it's invaluable to know that someone besides me cares so much about the health and well-being of my children!"

And there was another bonus: Jessica discovered that, after suffering with serious health problems without insurance, she was eligible herself under Nevada's Medicaid expansion. Now, in 28 states and DC, more parents than ever before, like Jessica, can qualify for Medicaid. When parents are covered, they can be more productive at work and their families will be more financially secure. And, healthy parents are better able to engage in child-focused activities, like participating in school events.

There's still more work to do. The Urban Institute analysis reveals that roughly 3.7 million children are eligible for Medicaid and CHIP but are not enrolled. Together, our Connecting Kids to Coverage grantees and partners can continue to make progress. Check out our website, for posters, flyers and videos that can support your outreach efforts. We hope you'll help us spread the message that families can apply for Medicaid and CHIP at anytime - so why wait?

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