The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services opened $49.4 million in grant funding Thursday to advance Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program enrollment and retention among kids, parents and pregnant individuals.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said during a Thursday call with reporters that this is the first time Medicaid and CHIP enrollment retention grants have targeted pregnant individuals as well.
Organizations including state and local governments, tribal organizations, not-for-profits, schools and more can apply to receive up to $1.5 million each over three years to help more children gain health coverage. Applications will be open until March 28.
Over half of the more than 4 million uninsured children in the country are eligible for Medicaid and CHIP, according to HHS. American Indian and Native children have the highest uninsured rate at 11.8%, followed by Hispanic children at 11.4% and Black children at 5.9%. Children can be eligible for CHIP coverage if their families earn above qualifying levels for Medicaid but low enough that they can't afford other options.
Medicaid also covers 42% of births in the country, and increasing enrollment outreach to pregnant people will help get more children covered, as infants born under Medicaid are generally eligible for a year of coverage. CMS will offer a simplified process for states to extend 12 months of postpartum Medicaid coverage starting in April. States currently only have to offer 60 days of postpartum coverage.
CMS encourages grant applicants to work with schools and other programs focused on young people, use social media to reach out to potential enrollees, work with parent mentors and community health workers and more.
"CMS is using every tool available to expand access to coverage and care," CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in a news release. "The Biden-Harris administration is committed to advancing health equity, and encourages organizations that serve children, their parents, and pregnant individuals in diverse and underserved communities to apply. These organizations play a pivotal role in connecting people to coverage since families and individuals often seek help from community organizations they know and trust."
$216 million has been awarded to nearly 300 organizations since 2009 to increase children's enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP. This newest round of funding falls in line with President Joe Biden's January 2021 executive order to strengthen Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, as well as its ongoing effort to improve health equity.
CMS also announced Thursday that a record 14.5 million people enrolled in exchange plans during the most recent open enrollment period, which ended in most states on Jan. 15. California, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island will keep enrollment open through Jan. 31, and D.C., Colorado, Maryland and New York have established extended special enrollment periods due to COVID-19.