HHS chief: Colorado health plan a model for US
DENVER Colorado – Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Monday that Colorado is a model for expanding health care for children after the state successfully enrolled 67,000 more children in Medicaid and children’s health programs.
Now the federal government wants to expand the program to other states with $40 million in grants.
Sebelius said the federal program will include state and local government programs, church outreach groups, child care centers, schools, community centers and American Indian tribes, and provide from $25,000 up to $1 million for programs that prove successful.
She said over the next four years, more than $100 million will be available for outreach efforts.
“The grants come at a very important time. Unemployment in this country has now reached 9.5 percent and when parents lose their jobs, they often lose health coverage for themselves and their children, so covering America’s children has never been more important,” Sebelius said in a conference call with Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and reporters.
Sebelius said the grants help support President Barack Obama’s new Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act, which is aimed at ensuring millions of currently uninsured children across the country get the health care they need.
Ritter said Colorado reached out to families with uninsured children, even though the state is facing a serious budget crisis.
To pay for the program, Ritter recently signed a bill imposing new fees on hospitals that will be used to get federal matching dollars for a total of $1.2 billion a year. The money will be used to expand the number of people covered by Medicaid and the state’s health insurance program for children. It will also be used to increase payments to hospitals that treat the uninsured.
“We’ve made covering kids a top priority in Colorado. Working in partnership with community-based organizations like schools, childcare centers and faith-based groups, we have dramatically increased outreach and enrollment efforts and those efforts are paying off,” Ritter said.
Cindy Mann, a Medicaid director who will oversee the grants, said states have been effective in enrolling over 30 million children in Medicaid and more than 7 million children in child health programs, but there are still millions of uninsured, low-income children who are not enrolled in the programs even though they are eligible.
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