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Even as states have struggled to meet their Medicaid obligations in recent years due to the downturn in the economy, most have continued to increase the percentage of children covered under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), the predominantly federally funded program that, since 1997, has helped states provide health insurance to children of families that make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford insurance. More importantly, states have worked to ensure that more eligible children are signed up to receive services by developing and promoting programs providing access to eligibility and enrollment information, particularly in rural areas; lengthening enrollment periods without the need for reauthorization; and other measures. According to a recent study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Gains for Children: Increased Participation in Medicaid and CHIP in 2009, these efforts are working. Nationally, 30 states boosted enrollment of children who are eligible for the program in 2009, the most recent year that data are available, which increased coverage from 80 percent in 2008 to 85 percent in 2009. This increase accounts for an additional 2.5 million children (from 40.2 million in 2008 to 42.7 million in 2009) in all states now covered by the program. It is, in part, attributable to the expansion of Medicaid coverage to individuals with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, a key component of the Affordable Care Act, as well as the reauthorization of SCHIP (CHIPRA) in 2009, which included grants to develop programs for increasing enrollment. Four SLC states — Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia — reported that at least 90 percent of all eligible children were signed up for the program in 2009, and the SLC average for coverage rose from 83.4 percent to 86 percent during that year.
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Source: Gains For Children: Increased Participation in Medicaid and CHIP in 2009, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2011.