HHS Promotes “The Secretary’s Challenge: Connecting Kids to Coverage”

Exactly 1 year after President Barack Obama signed the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA), U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack announced that 2.6 million more children were served by Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) at some point over the past year. They also released “The Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) One Year Later: Connecting Kids to Coverage,” a comprehensive review of the past year’s accomplishments in finding and enrolling children in health coverage.

Sebelius also highlighted “The Secretary’s Challenge: Connecting Kids to Coverage,” a 5-year long campaign that will challenge federal officials, governors, mayors, community organizations, tribal leaders and faith-based organizations to build on this success and enroll the nearly five million uninsured children who are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP but are not enrolled.

As part of the secretary’s challenge, Vilsack and Sebelius announced plans to work with state Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP, formerly the food stamp program), to encourage them to work with their state’s Medicaid and CHIP programs to share data and identify uninsured children who are potentially eligible for coverage through Medicaid or CHIP. Leaders from the Departments of Agriculture and HHS will provide guidance to state officials on how to better share data and reach families in need.

“We must make every effort to break down barriers so that the American people can better access the federal benefits that they qualify for,” Vilsack said in a news release. “The partnership we are announcing will bring new cooperation between HHS and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) so that families who qualify for food assistance can better access affordable health insurance for their children.”

States were able to increase enrollment in the two programs in part because of boosts in federal support provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). ARRA temporarily increased federal matching funds for state Medicaid programs during the recession and Obama’s budget proposes extending this increase for an additional 6 months.

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