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Increasing Health Care Coverage for Nebraska Children

Health insurance coverage is particularly important for children and can ensure that they receive routine check-ups as well as preventive care and treatment. Nationally, 88.3% of children and youth who are eligible to receive coverage from CHIP or Medicaid are actually enrolled. Nebraska falls just under this average at 88.1% participation. As we have previously discussed on our blog, access to quality and affordable health care is crucial to giving children equal opportunity for healthy and successful futures.  The CHIP program, which was recently reauthorized by Congress for two more years, plays a critical role in ensuring kids have access to health care.

In addition to allowing low-income families and children more positive health outcomes and financial stability, access to health care through Medicaid and CHIP has a broader and long-lasting impact on children and youth. According to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, CHIP decreased educational disparities, increased higher educational attainment and leads to better outcomes in economic well-being and greater societal contributions. Benefits for children under Medicaid also include the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) Program.  The goal of this program is to diagnose and treat children with developmental or medical issues early on to avoid more costly treatments or further complications later on.

It is clear that increasing participation rates in CHIP and Medicaid could have far-reaching, positive effects on low-income children in Nebraska. The following represent some recommended strategies for improving participation rates in Nebraska:

  1. 12 month continuous eligibility. States have the option to offer children 12 months of continuous coverage through Medicaid and CHIP regardless of potential changes in the family’s income. Currently, 33 states provide continuous coverage for either CHIP, Medicaid, or both programs.
  2. Presumptive eligibility. Presumptive eligibility allows certain organizations, schools, health care providers etc. to find eligible children and automatically enroll them in CHIP or Medicaid without having to wait for an application to be processed. Currently, 16 states offer presumptive eligibility for children.
  3. Express Lane Eligibility. Express lane eligibility (ELE) allows states to pull information needed for eligibility determination (income, household composition etc.) from other programs such as SNAP, TANF, or WIC. This provision, created by the CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2009 (CHIPRA) streamlines the application and enrollment process for children who qualify for public health insurance coverage. Louisiana was the first state to implement ELE in February 2010 and they reported that 10,000 Louisiana children were automatically enrolled as a result. A case study by the Urban Institute found that Louisiana increased children’s health coverage and saved a significant amount of administrative costs.
These are just some of the opportunities that Nebraska has to increase CHIP and Medicaid participation rates and ensure that all Nebraska children have access to quality, affordable health care and the opportunity to thrive. We hope to see Nebraska taking steps to make progress in this area in the near future.


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