Enrollment in state health care program for children rises

Nevada Checkup, the state’s version of the federal State Children’s Health Insurance Program, has 2,400 more children enrolled than it did this time last year, according to figures from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.

In September, 27,746 children were enrolled in the state-run health care program. Today, 30,204 children are enrolled, a 9 percent jump, said Betsy Aiello, Nevada Checkup’s chief administrator.

Enrolling more children into the state’s program is a priority because the agency has been scrutinized for not reaching eligible children. An estimated 85,000 children in Nevada area without health insurance, officials have said.

Nevada Checkup provides low-cost health insurance to children who are uninsured, come from low-income families and do not qualify for Medicaid. Medicaid is the federal insurance program for the poor.

"For some time our enrollment has been flat in Nevada Checkup, and there has always been a large number of children that are eligible that we haven’t been able to reach,” said Charles Duarte, administrator for the state’s Division of Health Care Financing and Policy. "With this increased enrollment, that means we are beginning to see some progress in outreach and coordination efforts to get more children enrolled."

Duarte said the Nevada Checkup program is budgeted to provide health insurance to 30,167 children each month for fiscal year 2008.

In fiscal year 2009, the program is budgeted for 31,081 children each month.

"It looks like we are going to easily meet our budget,” he said. "In order to reach this population, we really have to do a lot of aggressive marketing.”

During the past session, legislators passed a bill that allocates $500,000 for Nevada Checkup marketing. Duarte said the program probably will get federal matching funds.

According to state figures, the majority of children enrolled in Nevada Checkup are from Clark County.

Roughly two-thirds of the children are Hispanic, followed by whites and blacks.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Census Bureau released data showing that the number of uninsured Americans rose to 47 million in 2006, from 44.8 million in 2005. The number of uninsured children increased to 8.7 million in 2006, from 8 million in 2005.

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