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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 18, 1998

February 18, 1998

Today at the Children's National Medical Center, the President, joined by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, announced new efforts designed to enroll the millions of uninsured children who are eligible for but not currently enrolled in Medicaid and other state-based children's health program. These include: (1) the first major state expansions under the recently enacted Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and released findings that indicate that many States will soon follow; (2) a Presidential Directive to Federal Agencies; (3) FY1999 budget proposals that provide funding for children's health policy outreach including Medicaid enrollment incentives to States; and (4) an unprecedented set of public/private initiatives designed in partnership with Governors, health care providers, children's health advocates, foundations, businesses and many others who are committed to providing coverage for the nation's uninsured children.

Program participants include: Edwin K. Zechman, Jr., President and CEO of Children's National Medical Center; Linda Haverson, parent whose son was recently enrolled in Medicaid because of a local outreach effort; HHS Secretary Donna Shalala; First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton; and President Clinton.

Of the more than 10 million children in America who are uninsured, over 3 million are already eligible for Medicaid. However, many families are not aware that their children are eligible for Medicaid, and others have difficultly filling out the application. Similar problems could undermine the new Children's Health Insurance Program's goal to enroll millions of uninsured children. It is with these challenges in mind, that the President today:

ANNOUNCED THAT COLORADO AND SOUTH CAROLINA HAVE JOINED ALABAMA AS THE FIRST COVERAGE EXPANSIONS UNDER THE NEW CHIP PROGRAM. Last year's Balanced Budget Agreement included a major new program to provide health insurance to the nation's children. Today, the President announced that Colorado and South Carolina join Alabama as the first states to come into the children's health program. In late January, Alabama received approval to expand its Medicaid program to children ages 14 to 18 up to 100 percent of poverty. South Carolina will expand its Medicaid program to provide coverage to all children up to 150 percent of poverty. And, Colorado builds upon its current non-Medicaid program to cover all children up to 185 percent of poverty. The President also announced that many more States are well on their way to expanding coverage to more uninsured children. In addition to the three announced today, 14 more states have submitted plans to HHS for approval, and nearly 30 States have active working groups or task forces designing plans to address the needs of uninsured children.

ISSUED A NEW PRESIDENTIAL DIRECTIVE TO LAUNCH A GOVERNMENT-WIDE EFFORT TO ENROLL UNINSURED CHILDREN. In an executive memorandum to eight Federal agencies with jurisdiction over children's programs -- the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, Education, HHS, HUD, Labor, and Treasury, and the Social Security Administration -- the President directed the establishment of a multi-agency effort to enroll uninsured children. These agencies run programs such as WIC, Food Stamps, Head Start, and public housing that cover many of the same children who are uninsured and eligible for Medicaid or other health insurance. The memorandum instructs these agencies: (1) to identify all their employees and grantees who might come into contact with these children and ensure that these individuals are aware of the health insurance programs available to children; (2) to develop an intensive children's outreach initiative, such as distributing information, coordinating toll-free numbers, and simplifying and coordinating application forms; and (3) to report back in 90 days on their plan to help enroll uninsured children.

HIGHLIGHTED BUDGET PROPOSALS THAT PROVIDE MEDICAID ENROLLMENT INCENTIVES TO STATES. The President's FY 1999 budget invests $900 million over five years in children's health outreach policies, including the use of schools and child care centers to enroll children in Medicaid. The budget provides States with the option of automatically enrolling children in Medicaid even before having received all of the complicated eligibility and enrollment forms (a provision known as presumptive eligibility). It also expands the use of a Federally-financed administrative fund so that it can underwrite the costs for all uninsured children * not just the limited population allowed under current law.

ANNOUNCED A HISTORIC PRIVATE SECTOR COMMITMENT TO PROVIDE OUTREACH. To complement the public outreach effort, the President announced unprecedented new contributions from the private sector to help ensure that all children who are eligible for health insurance receive it, including:

ISSUED A CHALLENGE ACROSS AMERICA TO FIND NEW WAYS TO REACH OUT TO UNINSURED CHILDREN. The President challenged every physician, nurse, health care provider, business, school, parent, grandparent, and community across the nation, to find new ways to ensure that uninsured children eligible for health insurance are enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP. This national commitment should not stop until every eligible child across the country is enrolled in one of the existing health care programs.