Cody Belzley is vice president of health initiatives for the Colorado Children's Campaign.
Editor's note: Portions of this posting previously appeared as an opinion piece in Health Policy Solutions.
In December of 2012, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services once again recognized Colorado as a national leader in providing health coverage for kids. For the third year in a row, Colorado was awarded a bonus payment for efforts to make public coverage programs — Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) — work better for Colorado kids and families. While national recognition is nice — and the accompanying $43 million payment to the state certainly doesn't hurt — it isn't a reason to rest on our laurels and call the job done.
We still have about 120,000 uninsured kids in our state. But the momentum is in our favor. Covering all Colorado kids is within reach, if we're willing to invest the resources — time, money and political capital — to do it.
Here are three ways legislators and administration officials can demonstrate their continued commitment to health care coverage for kids.
First, approve the Medicaid expansion made possible under the Affordable Care Act. We already cover kids to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, so this expansion is not about new eligibility for children. However, we know that of the 120,000 uninsured children in our state, just more than 80,000 — nearly 70 percent — are currently eligible but not enrolled in Medicaid or CHP+. One proven strategy for getting kids covered is to cover their parents. The Medicaid expansion will provide coverage to more than 22,000 parents, which we know will translate to coverage for more children.
Second, continue to streamline and simplify the application, enrollment and re-enrollment processes for Medicaid and CHP+ so families can more easily access the services they need to stay healthy. Colorado has made tremendous strides in this area and should be very proud of that progress. The online application system PEAK makes the process much more accessible and investments in the Colorado Benefits Management System are beginning to pay off in terms of more timely and accurate application processing.
Finally, ensure the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange is in a strong position to serve all families, particularly low-income families who may be shopping for health insurance for the first time. Coloradans should be incredibly proud of the bi-partisan, cross-sector effort to establish the exchange. The staff, board and legislative review committee of the exchange have done heroic work thus far to prepare for the launch of the exchange this fall. As a result, Colorado is far ahead of most states in providing this point of access to coverage.
Ensuring all children can get the care they need, when they need it is not asking too much. Covering all kids is the first step to ensuring access to reliable, high-quality and affordable care they need to grow up healthy and strong. We have made great progress in Colorado over the last five years and with continued investment, we can finish the job.