HB 2128 does not expand the number of Washington kids who are eligible for state health insurance, but it does streamline administration of the program in ways that should make it easier for families to enroll and renew their coverage. This is an area where Washington state has lagged behind other states—Louisiana being the most striking example. In 2008, less than 1 percent of the children enrolled in Louisiana’s state-federal health insurance programs lost coverage at renewal time. That’s an astounding percentage. (You can read more about Louisiana’s experience at the Center for Children and Families website.)
Washington state data show that in 2005-2006, one in six children who dropped off coverage at renewal time ended up re-enrolled within three months. That means they were still eligible for coverage but were getting dropped because of administrative red tape. In addition, an estimated 32,600 of the state’s uninsured children are eligible for Apple Health for Kids but don’t know it, have been discouraged by complicated enrollment procedures or are reluctant to take advantage of a government program.
House Bill 2128 directs the Department of Social and Health Services to improve outreach, enrollment, and renewal efforts by, among other things: Using family income information from other assistance programs, such as food stamps and child care subsidies, to determine eligibility for Apple Health for Kids, and streamlining enrollment by using more telephone interviews and online applications.
Not only will such changes help kids get the medical care they need, cutting the red tape and enrolling more children pulls in performance bonuses from the federal government. (Read more about Children’s Health Insurance Program funding and Washington state here.)
It adds up to changing how DSHS does business in ways that will help uninsured children get the coverage they need.
--by Ruth Schubert