The Children’s Health Insurance Program has provided better access to healthcare for children and teenagers and greater financial protection for Alabama families for the past 25 years, and the program marked this milestone with a festive anniversary celebration, which included a news conference and a reception in Montgomery .
Govt. Kay Ivey proclaimed October 14 as Children’s Health Insurance Program Day in Alabama. Her recorded message, played at the news conference, applauded the universally popular program that has had a great impact on children’s healthcare in the state.
“For the past 25 years, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as ALL Kids in Alabama, has opened new doors to quality health care for more than 1.6 million children in our state by offering an excellent comprehensive health coverage plan,” said Governor Ivey . “I want to congratulate the Alabama’s Children’s Health Insurance Program on reaching its silver anniversary and for making a positive impact on Alabama families. I have designated October 14 as Children’s Health Insurance Program Day to celebrate this special occasion.”
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris stated, “This significant milestone could not have been reached without the cooperation of our partners and our CHIP team through the years. Before the program’s initiation, at least 15 percent of Alabama’s children were uninsured, and now Alabama ranks better in insuring children than the United States as a whole. We continue to strive to improve the health outcomes and lives of this vulnerable population.”
Dr. Harris commended the leadership and continuity in the program which has significantly changed lives by providing access to care through insurance coverage. Former State Health Officer Dr. Donald Williamson and two former CHIP directors reflected on how the program has evolved and expanded despite challenges. Alabama’s CHIP Program is the result of a partnership between the Alabama Department of Public Health, the Alabama Medicaid Agency, and the Alabama Child Caring Foundation.
Other partners in the federal-state partnership include the medical community, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Alabama Chapter; the Alabama Academy of Family Physicians; Children’s of Alabama, the University of South Alabama Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Alabama governors and legislators through the years, and many others including multiple Medicaid, Mental Health, and Rehabilitation Services commissioners, and numerous advocacy groups.
As of a result of provisions in the Affordable Care Act, in addition to the ALL Kids Program, CHIP also funds two groups of Medicaid eligible children (MCHIP) and the program works collaboratively with Medicaid in a dual eligibility enrollment system which keeps the application process streamlined and easy for applicants to navigate offering the “no wrong door” approach.
Dr. Williamson, who led the department when the program was signed into law in 1997 until his retirement in 2015, said the goal of children’s advocacy groups from the outset was to insure as many eligible children as possible with minimal copays. He said, “Our coverage of children stands out as a shining beacon, and I am most grateful to have had a small part in it.”
Gayle Sandlin, the program’s founding director, called her career with CHIP a “phenomenal experience” and thanked Dr. Williamson and former Staff Assistant Kathy Vincent for their vision and determination to establish and maintain the program as a priority. Alabama was the first state in the country to have its CHIP plan approved. Early achievements included setting up program eligibility by declaration and an early push for an electronic application.
Alabama’s second CHIP Director, Cathy Caldwell, described the implementation of the program as “a collaborative process from day one;” praised “the passion, energy and commitment from so many entities” and the decision to make every policy decision family friendly.
Pictured at the proclamation signing are, left to right, Dr. Scott Harris, State Health Officer; Keith Wright, CHIP Program Services Director; Wanda J. Davis, CHIP Deputy Director; Tara Freeman, CHIP Program Operations Division Director; Governor Ivey; Dr. Karen Landers, Chief Medical Officer; Stephanie McGee Azar, JD, Commissioner, Alabama Medicaid Agency; Gretel Felton, Director, Beneficiary Services, Alabama Medicaid Agency; and Catherine Molchan Donald, Public Health Administrative Officer and Acting CHIP Director.