Utah has been awarded 5.4 million dollars from the federal government for its efforts to get more children covered by health insurance. The performance bonus comes from the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009. For the second year in a row, Utah is one of 23 states to receive it. But some advocacy groups say there are still too many uninsured Utah children.
Since 2009, Utah has increased the number of eligible young people participating in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) by 10 percentage points. Lincoln Nehring, Senior Health Policy Analyst at Voices for Utah Children says the state has achieved this by eliminating barriers to enrollment, but he says Utah can and should do even more.
“We’ve made progress, there’s no doubt about it over the last few years, but compared to the rest of the country, we have a long ways to go,” says Nehring.
There are still more than 90,000 uninsured children in Utah. Nehring says most of them are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP, but even with the recent uptick in enrollment, Utah still ranks last nationally in enrolling children in those programs.
“The good news is, there are some policy changes the state can do that can bring Utah along and help us catch up to the national average,” Nehring says. “We have the programs there, they are available to us, we just need to make these changes, and we can see a significant reduction in the number of uninsured children in our state.”
Nehring says the state should move to 12-month continuous eligibility for children in Medicaid so families only have to sign up for coverage one time per year. He also recommends eliminating a five-year waiting period for legal immigrant children before they can sign up for Medicaid or CHIP. Nehring says both of these policies have been adopted in other states, reducing the number of uninsured children.