The Children’s Health Insurance Program has provided better access to health care for children and teens and greater financial protection for Alabama families for the past 25 years, and the program celebrated this milestone with a festive anniversary celebration that included a press conference and reception in Montgomery .
Governor Kay Ivey has designated October 14 as Children’s Health Insurance Program Day in Alabama. Her taped message, released at the news conference, applauded the universally popular program, which has had a major impact on children’s health care in the state.
“Over the past 25 years, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as ALL Kids of 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 insurance plan,” the governor said Ivy. “I want to congratulate the Children’s Health Insurance Program of Alabama for 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 mark this special occasion.”
State Health Officer Dr Scott Harris said: “This important milestone could not have been achieved without the collaboration of our partners and our CHIP team over the years. Before the program began, at least 15 percent of children in Alabama were uninsured, and now Alabama ranks better in child insurance than the United States as a whole. We continue to strive to improve the health outcomes and lives of this vulnerable population.”
Dr. Harris praised the leadership and continuity in the program, which has significantly changed lives by providing access to care through insurance coverage. Former state health official 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 Medical Assistance Agency and the Alabama Children’s Care Foundation.
Other partners in the federal-state partnership include the medical community, American Academy of Pediatrics Alabama Chapter; Alabama Academy of Family Physicians; Children of Alabama, the University of South Alabama Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Alabama governors and legislators over the years, and many others, including multiple commissioners of Medicaid, mental health and rehabilitation services, and numerous advocacy groups.
As a result of provisions in the Affordable Care Act, in addition to the ALL Kids program, CHIP also funds two groups of children eligible for Medicaid (MCHIP) and the program works in conjunction with Medicaid in a dual enrollment system that supports the application process streamlined and easy for candidates to navigate, offering a ‘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 child protection groups from the beginning was to get as many eligible as possible children with minimum payments. He said: “Our coverage of children stands out as a shining beacon and I am very grateful to have had a small part in it.”
Gail Sandlin, the program’s founder, called her career with CHIP a “phenomenal experience” and thanked Dr. Williamson and former assistant professor 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 a CHIP plan approved. Early achievements include determining program eligibility through declaration and an early push for electronic application.
CHIP Alabama’s second director, Kathy Caldwell, described the implementation of the program as a “collaborative process from day one;” she praised the “passion, energy and commitment of so many organizations” and the decision to make every policy decision family-friendly.
Pictured signing the proclamation are, left to right, Dr. Scott Harris, State Health Officer; Keith Wright, CHIP Director of Program Services; Wanda J. Davis, Deputy Director of CHIP; Tara Freeman, CHIP’s Director of Program Operations; Governor Ivey; Dr. Karen Landers, Chief Medical Officer; Stephanie McGee Azar, JD, Commissioner, Alabama Medical Assistance Agency; Gretel Felton, Director, Beneficiary Services, Alabama Medical Assistance Agency; and Katherine Molchan Donald, public health administrative officer and acting director of CHIP.