States may want to consider some or all of the following administrative strategies and other measures to improve outreach and increase coverage of low-income families with children:
- Create application sites outside the welfare office. States may make Medicaid applications regularly available at sites outside of welfare offices. For example, sites can be established at state or county offices that handle child care subsidies or at "Medicaid-only" offices. States may also place eligibility workers at locations that provide services to low-income families (see just below) subject to the regulations on outstationing cited on page 19. Federal law does not limit states' options along these lines as long as all final eligibility determinations are performed by state personnel who are authorized by the state to perform these functions. This approach can help promote the program as one that offers health insurance coverage to low-income families, generally, and not just to families receiving TANF.
- Place Medicaid and CHIP eligibility workers in communities. The opportunity to apply for Medicaid or CHIP can be enhanced by placing outreach and eligibility workers in locations where they are likely to interact with low-income families who are eligible for those programs (e.g., hospitals, community and migrant health centers, community action agencies, schools, community colleges, Head Start programs, and one-stop career centers).
Medicaid permits only authorized state eligibility workers to evaluate the information on the application and supporting documentation and to make eligibility determinations. But other individuals, including volunteers, provider and contractor employees and TANF workers may take applications at the outstation locations described on page 19, and perform initial processing activities, including interactions with applicants. The regulations on outstationing do not prohibit the use of volunteers to help applicants complete applications at sites other than outstation locations. Therefore, states can work with a very broad range of public and private organizations to identify eligible families, educate them about Medicaid and CHIP, and have them complete applications for health insurance. Again, the evaluation of Medicaid application information and the eligibility determination itself must be performed by state personnel who are authorized by the state to perform these functions.
States have greater flexibility to determine the sites where non-Medicaid CHIP applications may be taken and who may conduct initial application processing activities and make eligibility determinations.
- Improve the availability of application sites. It is important that states make it easy for low-income families, including working families, to apply for Medicaid and CHIP. Keeping application sites open during evening hours and on weekends makes it more convenient for working families to apply.
- Simplify the application and enrollment processes. Application and enrollment processes should not be a barrier to low-income families applying for Medicaid. As noted earlier, states have taken several steps to simplify the application and enrollment process for children under Medicaid and CHIP, including simplifying application forms, reducing documentation requirements, allowing mail-in applications, and expediting processing of applications. States also should consider allowing families who are not applying for TANF to use simplified Medicaid and CHIP applications and application processes. This approach would facilitate Medicaid and CHIP participation among these families. (HCFA(now known as CMS)'s guidance on simplifying the Medicaid and CHIP application and enrollment processes was provided in a letter to state health officials dated September 10, 1998, which can be found on the HCFA(now known as CMS) website (http://www.hcfa.gov).)
- Educate families. It is important that low-income families understand that the coverage available under Medicaid and CHIP for families and children is not linked to receipt of TANF assistance. The misconception that Medicaid eligibility is linked to TANF is widespread. Vigorous educational efforts are needed to correct this belief so that enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP can be maximized.
- Conduct outreach. It is critical that aggressive outreach be conducted to provide Medicaid and CHIP information to low-income families. States have used a variety of valuable approaches to help them locate children and facilitate their enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP, which should also be used to reach out to low-income families as a whole. They include:
¨ implementing a toll-free telephone hotline for enrollment information;
¨ placing billboards and posters in places frequented by low-income families;
¨ producing public service announcements for radio and television;
¨ distributing information through other public and private programs designed for low-income families (e.g., child care, Head Start, food pantries, one-stop centers, and community-based organizations);
¨ stationing state eligibility workers in places frequented by low-income families, such as TANF offices, WIC offices, hospitals, and one-stop centers); and,
¨ working with local community-based organizations to develop creative outreach programs.
States should also maximize publication of the national toll-free number that automatically connects callers with the CHIP program in their state. The number is 1-877-KIDS-NOW.
- Integrate health and social service systems. States should aim to integrate their programs to ensure that low-income families receiving any of an array of services learn about and apply for Medicaid and CHIP. The recently enacted Workforce Investment Act (WIA) promoted this concept by establishing an innovative "one-stop" system designed to provide a comprehensive array of job training, education, and employment services at a single neighborhood center. The WIA specifies several Federal programs and activities that must participate in each local onestop system. Although not required partners, the TANF and Medicaid programs can link up with onestop systems as optional partners, enhancing the support available to low-income working families and families making the transition from welfare to selfsufficiency.
Several states have taken advantage of this new opportunity. For example, the Kenosha County Job Center in Wisconsin has combined services, including Medicaid, at its job center. Although the one-stop center was initially designed to include services fairly directly related to job training, job-seeking, and education, it evolved to include Medicaid, child support, child care, and Head Start.