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According to the State of Alaska, there are 68, 101 Alaska children in Denali Kid Care now; there were 56,983 a year ago.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Dec. 17 awarded $789,000 to Alaska for making significant progress in enrolling uninsured children in Medicaid and improving access to the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Sebelius announced the award on a conference call with Senator Mark Begich.  

Alaska joins eight other states in receiving the first round of performance bonuses for boosting enrollments in the two programs in fiscal 2009.

Funding for the "performance bonuses" was included in the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization (CHIPRA) legislation signed into law by President Obama in February  The CHIPRA established performance goals that states must meet to qualify for a bonus. 

"Today, we're happy to reward states that have taken important steps to help insure more children and made a real difference in the lives of families across the country," said Secretary Sebelius. "These awards will provide crucial support and help states continue to serve children and families."

"In one of my first votes as a U.S. Senator, I was pleased to support the reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program. As a result, Alaska is one of a number of states that took steps to improve health coverage for children by reaching out to enroll Medicaid eligible kids for health care," Sen. Begich said. "With 23,000 Alaska children still uninsured, we still have a long way to go to adequately protect our children. But the performance bonus is a nice acknowledgement we are making progress and it will provide extra financial support to Alaska for outreach."

In addition to Alaska, other states receiving funds today include: Alabama, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington.  Awards vary by state according to a formula set out in CHIPRA but total $72.6 million this fiscal year. The bonuses will support state budgets and help ensure states may continue to provide coverage to children.

CHIPRA set two types of performance goals that states must meet to qualify for a bonus.  States must have adopted at least five program features-like providing 12 months of continuous eligibility, using a joint application for both Medicaid and CHIP and streamlining eligibility renewal processes-that are known to encourage enrollment and retention of eligible children.  States must also be able to document significant increases in Medicaid enrollment among children over the course of the year.

CHIPRA included a series of provisions and additional funding to help states cover more children and meet these goals. A boost in Medicaid reimbursement rates authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) also provided relief to states with suffering economies, enabling them to extend care to eligible children.

"In the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, decisive action in ARRA and CHIPRA, along with focused state activity, helped ensure that children got the health care they need," said Cindy Mann, director of the Center for Medicaid and State Operations within the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  "We are pleased to see the success these states have achieved as well as the actions to enroll eligible children taken by other states that we expect may qualify for the bonus next year."

Today's announcement closely follows the release of a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation's Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured which also credited ARRA and CHIPRA with enabling states to expand access to care for low-income, uninsured children.  In a 50-state survey, the Commission concluded that 26 states expanded and/or simplified their Medicaid and CHIP programs in 2009.  A copy of the complete report can be found at http://www.kff.org.

CMS today also released a letter to state health officials providing more detailed guidance on the criteria for qualifying for a bonus payment for 2009 and in future years. A copy of the letter is available at: www.cms.hhs.gov/CHIPRA.
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