Backlogs Put Children’s Health Coverage at Risk – Say Ahhh! A Children’s Health Policy Blog


By Gary Brunk

President & CEO, Kansas Action for Children

“I just couldn’t believe the state would cut personnel on
a program that’s for kids,” commented Harold Stultz to a reporter from the CBS
affiliate in Wichita, Kansas. 

According to a local television news report, Harold’s
12-year-old son Keenan had injured his knee during a wrestling match.  Harold believed that Keenan was covered
under HealthWave, the state’s Medicaid and CHIP program, but was surprised to
learn that the application had never been processed because of a backlog. 

In fact, Keenan is one of many children in Kansas waiting
for health care coverage because the state has not been able to process their

The need for
health coverage has been growing as the number of uninsured children in Kansas
climbed from 51,000 to 72,000 in just three years.  The pool of potential applicants was further expanded on
January 1 of this year, when income eligibility for HealthWave increased from
200 to 250 percent of the federal poverty level.

Cuts in funding that reduce the state’s ability to
process applications, on top of the increase in demand, add up to a large
backlog of unprocessed applications, now at around 20,000.  The state is taking steps to simplify
the application and renewal process that should result in long-term
improvements, but the ongoing recession and a projected state deficit of around
$400 million for the next fiscal year mean that reducing the backlog in the
short-term will be extremely difficult.

The situation in Kansas underscores the pressing need for
further fiscal relief for the states, and in particular for the FMAP extension
proposed by Senators Rockefeller and Reid.

For self-employed Harold Stultz, the backlog means his
family has $6,000 in medical bills they need to cover.  But Harold knows he is not the only one
affected.  “It…upsets me even more
that there are more people in my situation,” he says.  

How will Congress respond to the predicament of Harold’s family
– and the predicament that so many other families find themselves in during these tough economic times?

The views expressed by Guest Bloggers do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Children and Families.

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