Child Advocates Weigh In On Future of Kids Coverage

This week the Children’s Campaign and more than a dozen other child health advocates submitted a letter to a Congressional advisory group on the future of children’s health coverage. The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) requested stakeholder comment on how well marketplace health plans address the needs of children in our state and the greatest areas of concern with transitions of kids from the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to health plans available in the marketplace.

In the letter, advocates emphasized the importance of continued funding of CHIP for an additional four years to allow states to navigate the transition for children currently enrolled in CHIP plans to other high quality coverage options if CHIP is no longer available. Funding for CHIP will expire in September 2015 unless Congress acts to extend it. At any given time, more than 55,000 Colorado children rely on Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+), Colorado’s CHIP plan, for their health coverage.

Studies have shown that in every state analyzed, including Colorado, state CHIP plans are more affordable than health plans offered through marketplaces. In addition, the benefit structure of CHIP plans are uniquely designed to serve children, particularly those with special healthcare needs. The adequacy and appropriateness of provider networks for children under marketplace plans also varies greatly.

For these reasons, advocates are concerned about continuity of high quality coverage for children in Colorado unless Congress takes action to extend CHIP funding. We look forward to working with state officials to ensure that all Colorado kids have quality, affordable coverage that is convenient and comfortable for families to access and use. Learn more about the importance of CHIP in Colorado and read stories of families benefitting from it.

 

Inform Medicaid Improvements: Lend Your Expertise to Strengthen Health Care Delivery in Colorado

The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF) is eagerly seeking input from a wide variety of stakeholders on ideas for strengthening and improving the delivery of health care services for the more than 1 million Coloradans served by Medicaid. HCPF is seeking responses to a Request for Information (RFI) that covers a broad range of topics. You do NOT need to be a health care or Medicaid expert to lend your perspective on how the state can do a better job meeting the needs of vulnerable children and families. The Children’s Campaign has put together a brief presentation with background on the Medicaid Accountable Care Collaborative project and opportunities to respond to this request for information. We hope many child advocates across the state will take advantage of this opportunity to share their insights and expertise on how the state can best support the healthy development of Colorado’s kids. If you are interested in responding to the RFI and would like guidance on sections related to kids, contact Cody Belzley, Children’s Campaign Vice President of Health and Strategic Initiatives, at cody@coloradokids.org. For a brief overview of the RFI process click here.

Reports Point to Importance of Continued Investment in Health Coverage for Kids

Two new national reports released this week point to the crucial importance of continuing to invest in public health insurance options for children.

The bipartisan children’s advocacy organization First Focus found that public health coverage provided through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP, known as the Child Health Plan Plus, or CHP+, in Colorado) serves a greater percentage of children in rural areas than their urban counterparts. The report  shows that in 2012, 47 percent of rural children in the U.S. were covered through CHIP or Medicaid, compared to 38 percent of American children in urban areas. Rural children rely on public health insurance more than urban children and the share of rural children enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP is rising rapidly.

The Georgetown University Center for Children and Families (CCF) joined the Urban Institute in releasing a brief addressing how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is affecting uninsured children. While the ACA has brought new health coverage to millions of American adults, including parents and caregivers, the brief finds that no significant change was found at the national level in the uninsured rate for children between September 2013 and June 2014. In Colorado, where the Medicaid expansion option has been implemented, we have seen growth in the number of covered children.  According to the brief, the number of insured children could grow if states continue to improve systems used by families to apply for coverage and if more states take up Medicaid expansion under the ACA.

Under current law, federal funding for CHIP will end on Sept. 30, 2015 unless Congress acts first. Because CHIP is a state-federal partnership, state budget officials must make decisions about the future of their states’ CHIP programs well in advance of that deadline. The Colorado Children’s Campaign is committed to the continued success of safety net programs that provide health coverage to children in Colorado and advocating for continued federal investment in CHIP.

Administrative Change Encourages Screening for Postpartum Depression & Improves Family-Centered Care in Medicaid

Nearly 10,000 Colorado women per year—more than one in every 10 Colorado women who give birth—reported experiencing postpartum depressive symptoms, according to data from the national Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS). That makes depression the most common complication of pregnancy.

There are significant differences in the prevalence of postpartum depressive symptoms based on the mother’s race, ethnicity, age, educational attainment and income. Young, minority and low-income mothers in Colorado were significantly more likely to report experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, as were unmarried women and those with less than a high school education. Mothers who experience postpartum depression can struggleSmiling Mother and Toddler to engage in positive child safety and child development practices, which can have harmful impacts on their children. As such, ensuring good maternal mental health is critical to ensuring all children get a healthy start in life. Thanks to an administrative change made by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF), pediatric primary care providers who see an infant for a well-baby visit may now bill for postpartum depression screening for the mother using the Medicaid ID of the infant, making it more likely that mental health challenges facing the mom can be identified in a timely way, in a family-friendly setting. We applaud the Medicaid agency for making this important change and congratulate our partners at the American Academy of Pediatrics, Colorado Chapter, for their advocacy and commitment to ensuring every child has a healthy start.

Are you a health care provider interested to learn more? Check out HCPF’s provider bulletin. Read our 2011 Healthy Moms, Healthy Kids series to learn more about maternal depression.

More than 124,000 Coloradans Use New Marketplace to Buy Health Coverage

Connect for Health Colorado, Colorado’s new health insurance marketplace, closed its first open enrollment period on March 31. Connect for Health reported this week that more than 124,000 Coloradans signed up for private health insurance between October 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014. Of those, 12 percent were under age 18 and another 8 percent were between the ages of 18 and 25. Connect for Health also reported that 59 percent of enrollees benefitted from financial assistance (tax credits), averaging $277 per month. This enrollment exceeded the federal government’s identified state target of 92,000 enrollees by more than 30 percent. Coupled with the significant enrollment in Medicaid, we’re encouraged that Colorado should see a measurable decline in the number and percent of uninsured residents. This is exciting because we know that insured kids are more likely to get the preventive care they need to stay healthy and access services for illness and injury in a timely way. For more detailed information about who enrolled in health coverage during the first open enrollment period check out the By The Numbers: The First Open Enrollment Report.

Fast Fact – Apr. 11, 2014

Across Colorado, nearly 16 percent of children who were eligible for health coverage through Medicaid or CHP+ were not enrolled (EBNE) in either program in 2012. In some counties, such as Routt and Pitkin, more than a third of all children eligible for coverage through one of these programs were not enrolled. To find the most recent data on EBNE children in your county, please visit  the KIDS COUNT Data Center.

New Colorado Health Institute Analysis Shows Thousands of Colorado Kids Eligible for Public Health Coverage but Not Enrolled

The Colorado Health Institute (CHI) this week released its annual count of children who are eligible for Medicaid or the Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) but not enrolled, often referred to as EBNE. The new analysis shows that in 2012, approximately 80,000 children in Colorado qualified for coverage through one of these two public health coverage programs but remained uninsured—about 16 percent of all children who were eligible for public coverage.

This year’s EBNE estimates were calculated using a new methodology to account for two recent policy changes, but CHI notes that under both the old and new methods, the number of Colorado children who were eligible for Medicaid or CHP+ but not enrolled declined between 2011 and 2012. To see maps showing the percent of EBNE children by county, please check out CHI’s fact sheet.

Twelve Months Coverage Policy A Big Win for Health of Colorado Kids

This week, the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing announced that children in Medicaid will be able to keep their coverage for 12 months, regardless of changes in family size or income. This is a huge win for Colorado’s kids and families! For too long children have cycled on and off of Medicaid as small changes in family income have affected eligibility. This bouncing on and off of the program (sometimes referred to as “churn”) disrupts the child’s relationship with their health care provider and creates costly administrative work for health care providers and the state. Colorado has had one of the highest churn rates in the country, as illustrated by this map reflecting data from 2011.

With 12 months of guaranteed coverage in place, families will have coverage they can count on. This keeps kids healthy and gives families peace of mind that they’ll have access to affordable services when their kids are sick or injured. It will also reduce administrative burdens for health care providers and the state, increasing efficiency for Medicaid overall.

“In order to maximize the benefit of health insurance, it needs to be consistent and reliable. Children who have continuous coverage are more likely to receive high quality health care in medical homes instead of emergency rooms,” said Dr. Steve Federico, Children’s Campaign Board Member  and former President of the Colorado Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The Department of Health Care Policy and Financing estimates that more than 530,000 Colorado children will benefit from this change. The Children’s Campaign and All Kids Covered Colorado celebrate this success and thank Gov. John Hickenlooper, HCPF Director Sue Birch and the many partners we have worked with during the past eight years to bring this policy change to Colorado. Read more about the announcement in The Denver Post and Health News Colorado.

Fast Fact – Feb. 14, 2014

In Fiscal Year 2012-2013, 31 percent of Colorado kids ages birth to 18 (nearly 413,000 children) were enrolled in Medicaid at some point during the year. Medicaid serves children in families with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level (approximately $31,000 for a family of four) and helps ensure children in low-income families can get the health care they need when they need it. To find Medicaid enrollment data for your county, please visit the KIDS COUNT Data Center.

Newly Released Census Data Show Colorado’s High Rate of Child Poverty Persists, but Continued Progress on Getting Kids Insured

Colorado’s child poverty rate was higher in 2012 than during the worst years of the Great Recession, according to data from the American Community Survey released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. The new data show that in 2012, 18 percent of all Colorado kids were living in poverty, up from 15 percent in 2008. Nearly 224,000 children across the state were living in poverty last year, defined as an annual income at or below $23,050 for a family of four. Since 2000, Colorado has seen the number of children living in poverty more than double, increasing at the third-fastest rate in the nation. Median household income in Colorado also continued to stagnate, with little change from 2011 to 2012. Since 2008, Colorado’s median household income has declined from just over $61,000 to $56,765.

These new data show that despite some indications that our economy is in recovery, economic security remains out of reach for many of Colorado’s low- and middle-income families. Meanwhile, Congress continues to debate cuts to programs that are critical to thousands of Colorado children, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as food stamps). Other important programs like Head Start and Early Head Start are feeling the effects of funding cuts from the sequester that went into effect earlier this year.

Despite the increase in child poverty, Colorado continues to make steady progress on getting more children insured. The newly released data show that 8.8 percent of Colorado kids were uninsured in 2012, down from 14 percent in 2008. Nationally, 7 percent of all children lacked health insurance in 2012.