Obama Administration Sinking Millions Into Government-Run Health Care for Children

By Susan Jones | February 23, 2010 | 9:41 AM EST

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies on Capitol Hill on Feb. 4, 2010. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Cenetafile)

(CNSNews.com) – While Democrats and Republicans disagree on establishing a government-run health insurance plan as part of health care reform, such programs already exist – and are thriving.
On Monday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that 10 states will share $100 million in federal grants to improve health care quality and delivery systems for children enrolled in Medicaid and in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
The grants, to be awarded over a five-year period, were funded by the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009, a bill that President Obama signed into law on February 4, 2009.
"The money will help states implement and evaluate provider performance measures and utilize health information technologies such as pediatric electronic health records and other quality improvement initiatives," said the Feb. 22 HHS news release.
“We all have a stake in the health of our nation’s children,” Sebelius said. “Exploring new technologies and initiatives will help ensure our kids get the high quality care they need and deserve.”
The grants are totally funded by taxpayers and are designed “to help establish a national quality system for children’s health care through Medicaid and CHIP.”
“These grants will test the most current theories of how to improve the quality of care delivered to children,” said Cindy Mann, who works for an agency within the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “These awards will help create the foundation for a more responsive and effective national system of high quality health care for children.”
According to HHS, eight of the 10 states will use the grant money to test a new set of child health quality measures, and seven of the ten states will use the funds to implement health information technology strategies. Two states specifically plan to develop a new pediatric electronic health record format.
CHIP, which operates in all 50 states under various names, served more than 7.3 million children in fiscal year 2008. According to HHS Secretary Sebelius, an additional 2.6 million children gained Medicaid or CHIP coverage during fiscal 2009.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that by 2013, the states will be able to provide coverage to an additional 4 million children who would otherwise be uninsured.
The Obama administration wants all eligible children to enroll in the government-run programs: "Maybe they haven’t heard of the programs or don’t know they are eligible or have applied before and were turned away," Sebelius said in a speech on Feb. 4.  "But we need to find them now."
Sebelius is calling on all state and local governments, community-based organizations, health centers, and faith-based organizations to help enroll any and all children who are eligible for CHIP or Medicaid.  
Last fall, the Obama administration awarded outreach grants to help find and enroll eligible children “so they don’t have to put their doctor’s appointments off a day longer than they have to,” Sebelius said.

Earlier this month, Sebelius announced that she plans to speak to a wide range of organizations in coming weeks to spread the word about enrolling children in CHIP and Medicaid programs.
In his health care plan unveiled on Monday, President Obama calls for expanding Medicaid coverage to more individuals.
"Starting on January 1, 2014, all low-income, non-elderly and non-disabled individuals will be eligible for Medicaid," says a summary of the plan posted on the White House Web site. “This includes unemployed adults and working families – all people with income below $29,000 for a family of four (133% of poverty).
"The Federal Government will support States by providing 100% of the cost of newly eligible people between 2014 and 2017, 95% of the costs between 2018 and 2019, and 90 percent matching for subsequent years."
Medicaid is jointly-funded federal-state partnership that is administered by the states.
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), originally created in 1997, is a state and federal partnership that provides low-cost health insurance coverage for children in families who earn too much income to qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford to purchase private health insurance coverage. States have considerable flexibility to establish income eligibility rules for CHIP.