NC fails to qualify for millions in extra federal bonus $$ for enrolling kids in health coverage
As part of the expansion of the state children’s health insurance program last year, the federal government made available millions of dollars to states to enroll more children. In addition, the federal government added a sweetener. For states that did a really good job enrolling more kids, not only would the federal government pick up 75% of the cost as usual but there would also be the chance for a substantial bonus payment of potentially millions of dollars if states really did a good job enrolling kids. Alabama got over $30 million in bonus payments today because of this and eight other states received payments in the millions as well.
NC has enrolled a few more kids in our children’s health insurance program, Health Choice, over the last year. So far growth has been slow and similar to past years despite our economic troubles. Why? State legislators decided, despite the extra federal money available and the need of hundreds of thousands of families for affordable child coverage, to maintain caps on the enrollment growth in Health Choice. This creates an insidious effect – no one enrolling families wants to hit that cap because the program closes to new kids and thousands start to lose coverage. So, NC enrollment workers start to slow down enrollment as the number of kids approaches the cap.
The General Assembly’s cap on kid enrollment and unwillingness to fund and encourage new strategies for enrolling kids came back to bite today. The federal government announced millions in bonus money for states that had: 1. Made strides in changing their programs to encourage more kids to enroll and 2. Actually enrolled substantial numbers of new children. NC did neither and thus didn’t qualify for any of these extra millions that would be a real help with our budget. NC failed to take the measures to make health care of children a top priority and help the thousands of families losing jobs in our state.