During the past year, as the entire nation has been focused on the country’s continuing economic problems, Medicaid and CHIP have continued to play a central role in providing coverage to millions of people who would otherwise lack affordable options.
According to a 50-state survey recently published by the Kaiser Family Foundation nearly all states “held steady” or made improvements in Medicaid and CHIP eligibility and enrollment rules in 2010, in spite of budget woes. They preserved the programs’ important role of providing coverage to millions of low-income children and families.
While two states (Arizona and New Jersey) made changes that decreased eligibility, 13 states expanded eligibility for specific groups and 14 states streamlined enrollment and renewal procedures, with the majority of changes focused on children. Unfortunately, Arkansas was not one of those states, even though we haven’t faced the same fiscal challenges as other states. Arkansas can take now to help cut the red tape and get more eligible children enrolled in ARKids First. (Bonus: it could put us in the running for federal bonus funds if we do!). We could also move to implement the expansion passed in 2009 to make even more children eligible for the program. Laying the groundwork now helps to both insure that low income families and children get the coverage they very much need, while also preparing us to modernize, streamline, and continue to improve access to ARKids First and Medicaid.