Lean budget years require a more creative outreach to promote Pennsylvania’s insurance program for kids.
In the past, the state has spent as much as $2 million in a year to market the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Not anymore. This fiscal year, there could be as little as $700,000 for marketing and community outreach. Groups worried about falling CHIP enrollment say they’re working to sign up hard-to-reach kids. “We are talking about older youth, teenagers and children and youth who live in immigrant families,” said Colleen McCauley of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, said. “Again, these kids are eligible for coverage, but they are not enrolled. There is a language or cultural barrier that inhibits them from getting coverage,” she said. By contrast, Pennsylvania has shifted its focus to grassroots efforts to retain already-enrolled families and reconnect with those who have dropped out of the program. Insurance department spokeswoman Roseanne Placey said the overall budget for the program is unsure. So right now, it doesn’t make sense to drive a vast number of new families to CHIP — then be unable to accommodate them, she said. As CHIP’s marketing budget has shrunk, name recognition for the program has waned too.
All Pennsylvania kids are eligible for some level of participation in CHIP, but community health activists are says many families aren’t hearing that message.
“Kids lose insurance all the time,” said Ann Bacharach of the Pennsylvania Health Law Project. “There parents change jobs. Someone gets married, someone gets divorced. Family size changes folks move from one county to another,” she said. “There are all kinds of reasons that kids lose insurance which is why they should be directed to CHIP as an answer.”
About 193,000 kids were signed up in January.