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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 18, 1998

February 18, 1998

                      THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE
                      THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR 
                         THE SECRETARY OF LABOR 
                       THE SECRETARY OF EDUCATION

SUBJECT: Children's Health Insurance Outreach

Over 10 million of our Nation's children are currently uninsured and, as a consequence, often cannot afford much-needed health care services such as doctor visits, prescription drugs, or hospital care. Last year, with bipartisan support, we took a major step toward solving this problem. The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 that I signed into law enacted the largest single expansion of children's health insurance in 30 years. The new Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides $24 billion over 5 years to cover millions of uninsured children in working families. It builds on the Medicaid program, which currently covers nearly 20 million poor children across the country.

We now face the serious task of enrolling uninsured children in both Medicaid and State-administered children's health programs. We know that well over 3 million uninsured children are eligible but not enrolled in Medicaid. This is largely due to a lack of knowledge about Medicaid eligibility and the difficulty of the enrollment process. These same problems could limit the potential of CHIP to successfully enroll millions of uninsured children.

To ensure that both Medicaid and CHIP fulfill their potential, I am calling for a nationwide children's health insurance outreach initiative involving both the private and public sectors. As illustrated by my announcement today, foundations, corporations, health care providers, consumer advocates, and others in the private sector are already responding to our challenge to make every effort to enroll uninsured children in Medicaid or CHIP. In the public sector, my FY 1999 budget proposal includes policies to give States the flexibility and funding they need to conduct innovative outreach activities. The Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) should continue their focused efforts to promote outreach through administrative actions.

There is clearly more that the Federal Government can do to help the States and the private sector achieve our mutual goal of targeting and providing coverage to uninsured children. Many children who lack health insurance are the same children who benefit from programs your agency now administers. Eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP is often similar to that for WIC, Food Stamps, Head Start, tax programs, job training, welfare to work, Social Security, public housing, and homelessness initiatives. Thus, a coordinated Federal inter-agency effort is critical to providing greater health care coverage for children.

Therefore, to increase enrollment of uninsured children in Medicaid and CHIP, I hereby direct you to take the following actions consistent with the mission of your agency.

First, I direct you to identify all of the employees and grantees of your agency's programs who work with low-income, uninsured children who may be eligible for Medicaid or CHIP.

Second, I direct you to develop and implement an educational strategy aimed at ensuring that your agency's employees and grantees are fully informed about the availability of Medicaid and CHIP to our Nation's children.

Third, I direct you to develop an agency-specific plan as part of our Administration-wide, intensive children's health insurance outreach effort. Your agency's plan should include distributing information and educating families about their options; coordinating toll-free numbers and other sources of information on public programs; simplifying, coordinating, and, where possible, unifying the application process for related public programs; and working with State and local agencies on broadening the locations where families can apply for Medicaid and/or CHIP.

Fourth, I direct you to identify any statutory or regulatory impediments in your programs to conducting children's health insurance coverage outreach.

Finally, I direct the Department of Health and Human Services to serve as the coordinating agency to assist in the development and integration of agency plans and to report back to me on each agency's plan in 90 days with recommendations and a suggested implementation timetable. In so doing, I direct the Department to ensure that Federal interagency activities are complementary, aggressive, and consistent with the overall initiative to cover uninsured children.