WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) introduced “The Children’s Express Lane to Improve Health Coverage and Program Integrity Act” (The Children’s Express Lane Act), legislation that would improve states’ ability to identify and enroll uninsured children into Medicaid and State Children’s Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP).

This bill would give states the option to fast track (or expedite) enrollment into Medicaid and SCHIP through other public means-tested programs, while also providing financial support for the necessary information technology improvements to make such a system function effectively.

“Many children eligible for school lunches are also eligible to receive health care under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The difficulty comes when red tape and bureaucracy prevent the sharing of information between the programs,” Lugar said. “It is important that we give states greater flexibility in the ways they can enroll uninsured children by eliminating duplicative multi-agency efforts to collect and verify income and resource eligibility.”

“Express Lane would equip states with the ability to identify and expedite the enrollment of millions of America’s uninsured children into SCHIP and Medicaid programs,” said Senator Bingaman. “It offers a chance to reach more than 70% of low-income, uninsured children; all of whom live in families already receiving benefits through Food Stamps, free or reduced price school lunch, and/or nutrition programs for women, infants and children. Moreover, Express Lane will enable technological improvements that will link state health insurance agencies with other public benefit programs, cutting administrative waste,” Bingaman continued.

According to Wendy Lazarus, Co-President of The Children’s Partnership, a national child advocacy organization that has spearheaded Express Lane pilot programs and policies in California since 1998: “Experience in California has proven that states need the flexibility offered by this bill to reach uninsured children, enroll them, and keep them in coverage in a cost-effective, administratively streamlined manner. The Children’s Express Lane Act also promotes the use of 21st century technology to make these programs work better for families and for taxpayers.”

The Children’s Partnership and First Focus have been working with Senators Lugar and Bingaman, who have been staunch supporters of Express Lane and Medicaid streamlining.

“Senators Lugar and Bingaman have been champions of these key children’s health insurance reforms, and their bipartisan leadership has helped make Express Lane an important part of the SCHIP reauthorization process,” said Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus, a bipartisan organization advocating sound healthcare policies to protect America’s children. “Enactment of Express Lane provisions will enable families eligible for Medicaid and SCHIP to cut through the bureaucratic red tape that is often a deterrent to enrollment. By providing states with the technological resources and support to ensure a smooth and efficient implementation of the program, Express Lane will eradicate burdensome paperwork from the enrollment process.”

Express Lane policy has garnered broad agreement, with language included in a number of key SCHIP reauthorization bills, including the Children’s Health First Act introduced by Representative Dingell and Senator Clinton. In addition, Senators Rockefeller and Snowe have indicated that the provision will be included their legislation, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Reauthorization Act of 2007. Furthermore, SCHIP directors have requested added flexibility to try “Express Lane” and “auto” enrollment — outreach, enrollment, and retention tools that they feel hold great promise. See Reauthorizing SCHIP: Principles, Issues and Ideas from State Directors (NASHP, April 2007).

All of the Express Lane proposals would give state Medicaid and SCHIP programs the flexibility to:

• Grant income-eligibility for Medicaid or SCHIP when another public program has already found that the family has an income low enough to qualify for health coverage — whether or not the other program uses a different income-finding methodology;
• Access extra federal resources to develop the hardware and software needed to exchange data electronically with other programs and administer Express Lane most efficiently;
• Access publicly-held data to determine children’s eligibility rather than delaying or denying health coverage by making families complete duplicative paperwork; and
• Use other programs’ findings to expedite the determination of eligibility factors other than income.

The Children’s Partnership (TCP) is a national, nonprofit child advocacy organization working to ensure that the nation’s children — especially those at risk of being left behind — have the resources and the opportunities they need to grow up healthy and to lead productive lives. They focus particular attention on the goals of securing health coverage for uninsured children and ensuring that the opportunities of digital technology benefit all children and families. The Children’s Partnership has offices in Washington DC and Santa Monica, CA. Seehttp://www.childrenspartnership.org

First Focus is a bipartisan advocacy organization that is committed to making children and their families a priority in federal policy and budget decisions. They promote bipartisan policy solutions to make children’s health care more accessible and reliable, address declining high school graduation rates, and advocate for tax measures that would keep children out of poverty. To learn more visit http://www.firstfocus.net.