Louisiana’s efforts to reduce the number of children living without health insurance have received a significant boost from the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The department’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services awarded an additional $10.7 million to the Louisiana Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides no-cost health care coverage for low-income children under the age of 19.

The additional funding comes from a redistribution of unspent State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) allotments from fiscal year 2002. Louisiana was chosen to receive additional funding because the state spent its entire allotment of expiring funds and did not have to return SCHIP money to the federal government. This year marks the first time Louisiana has not had to return unspent funds for redistribution to other states.

“Ensuring children’s access to quality, preventive care is one of the most important steps we can take to improve the health of our children,” said Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco. “The most costly health care problems are born in the early stages of life. Providing health care to our children, especially through LaCHIP, is the first step to preventing these long-term and complex health problems.”

Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Dr. Fred Cerise praised his staff for their recent work on behalf of the state’s uninsured children. National studies from the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Affairs, a nationally respected health care journal, place Louisiana third among all states in reducing the number of uninsured children. According to Dr. Cerise, this shows that the aggressive outreach efforts to enroll children into LaCHIP are working.

There are approximately 106,000 Louisiana children who are currently enrolled in LaCHIP. More than 30,000 were added since the March 2004 Health Care Summit, where Gov. Blanco challenged LDH staff to find and enroll all eligible children. The additional federal funds will allow the LaCHIP program to continue providing coverage for those enrolled while stepping up outreach efforts.

“Through LaCHIP, we have managed to greatly expand health care coverage for children in Louisiana by aggressively targeting our outreach efforts," said Cerise. “However, nearly 50,000 children in our state remain eligible for LaCHIP but are not yet enrolled. In keeping with the goals of Gov. Blanco’s health care reform initiative, we will use these additional funds to find and enroll more eligible children so they can receive quality, affordable health care.”