The state government is receiving $16.8 million in federal aid to attempt to ensure more children have health coverage, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Wednesday.
The so-called performance bonus payments are funded under the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act, one of the first pieces of legislation signed into law by President Obama in 2009. To qualify for the payments, states must surpass a specified Medicaid enrollment target. They also must adopt procedures that improve access to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), making it easier for eligible children to enroll and retain coverage.
New Jersey is one of 23 states to share over $296 million in federal performance bonuses this year.
The bonuses come one week after new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the number of children with insurance increased by 1.2 million since the CHIP reauthorization in 2009. An HHS brief notes that the increase has been entirely due to greater enrollment in public programs such as Medicaid and CHIP.
“More of New Jersey’s children now have the advantages health coverage provides,” Sebelius said. “And New Jersey parents now have the security of knowing their children can get the health care they need without worrying that an illness could leave them with a lifetime of medical bills.”
New Jersey is receiving a performance bonus for the third year. The state has made several program improvements to streamline the children’s health coverage enrollment process. For example, the same forms are used to apply for Medicaid (NJ FamilyCare A) or CHIP (NJ FamilyCare B and C) and applicants are not required to appear for a face-to-face interview, which can be difficult for working parents.
In addition, New Jersey has adopted the “Express Lane Eligibility” option, under which the state is using information families already have submitted to the National School Lunch Program to help make an eligibility determination for Medicaid or CHIP.
Performance bonuses help offset the costs states incur when they enroll lower income children in Medicaid. The bonuses also give states the incentive to streamline their enrollment and renewal procedures, ensuring long-term improvements in their children’s health insurance programs.
“Despite serious fiscal challenges, today’s awards show that children’s health remains a top priority for states,” Cindy Mann, Deputy Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said. “Not only have more states qualified for performance bonuses than in the past, but many have continued to improve the efficiency of their programs.”
—TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM