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Frist-Bingaman Bill Would Allow Uninsured Children to Enroll in Medicaid, SCHIP

MAY 17, 2005 -- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., introduced legislation Tuesday that would provide $100 million in grants over two years to states, local communities, schools, faith-based organizations, and others to enroll eligible children into Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

The bill would allow the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to award grants to organizations that conduct "innovative" outreach and enrollment programs for uninsured children. To be eligible, organizations must conduct assessments of the effectiveness of their activities and collect and report enrollment data to the HHS secretary.

The $100 million in funding would be evenly split in fiscal 2006 and fiscal 2007, with 10 percent set aside for grants to the Indian Health Service, tribal organizations, and urban Indian programs for outreach and enrollment for American Indian children, according to documents detailing the bill. Funds also could be carried over into subsequent fiscal years until all $100 million is awarded.

The HHS secretary would be required to make public the enrollment data and other measures that demonstrate the effectiveness of the outreach programs. The secretary also would have to submit an annual report to Congress detailing how the programs are working to expand coverage for uninsured children.

Approximately six million uninsured children are eligible for coverage through Medicaid and SCHIP, the lawmakers said in a news release. "Covering children is not only the right thing to do, but by ensuring that children have access to preventative care, it is also one of the best ways of reducing long-term strain on America's health care system," Frist said.

Many parents "simply don't know these program exist or how to enroll their children in them," Bingaman said. "This legislation shines a spotlight on this serious problem, setting aside $100 million to sign children up for the benefits they need to be healthy."

The measure would also give states the option of using income and resource eligibility determinations made under other government programs to fast-track enrollment in Medicaid and SCHIP. That step, the lawmakers said, would simplify state administrative processes, reduce paperwork burdens for families and the government, help increase insurance coverage, and potentially reduce costs of a number of federal programs.

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