Doctors and children's advocates from around Washington State gathered in Seattle today to share some good news in the midst of tense state budget negotiations currently underway at the state Legislature in Olympia.
The announcement? The state would receive more than $80 million in federal revenue if it continues to fully fund Apple Health for Kids, Washington's health insurance program for kids.
According to a new analysis by the statewide advocacy group the Children's Alliance, that is the sum Apple Health for Kids would earn the state in federal funding over the next two years as recognition of the programs success. Children's Alliance is working to preserve the program from state budget cuts, ensuring that all Washington children are eligible for health coverage.
The promise of federal argues against reducing state funding for the program, advocates say.
"We have what it takes to continue Apple Health for Kids," Jon Gould, deputy director of the Children's Alliance, said in a release announcing the organization's analysis.
The state earns money each year from the federal government for making strides in enrolling eligible children in the coverage program. Over the past two years, Apple Health for Kids' successful enrollment practices have earned $25 million in federal bonus funding. Over the next two years, the program stands to earn $80 million, according to a new analysis by Children's Alliance staff. If enrollment is higher than predicted, the state could earn as much as $94 million.
Given the news last week that the poor economy has widened the next two-year budget gap in the state, Gould called the federal support of Apple Health for Kids "a bright spot for the state."
"We are being rewarded for doing the right thing: the more kids who can see a doctor, the better our budget situation," Gould said.
With one streamlined enrollment process and the same benefits package for all eligible children, Apple Health for Kids is an affordable means of making sure Washington kids stay healthy. That was lawmakers intention when they passed the Cover All Kids law in 2007. Since then, enrollment in the program has steadily grown, and the number of kids without health coverage has dropped. Nearly 700,000 kids are enrolled in the program, or about 39 percent of all Washington kids. Apple Health for Kids covers 1 out of every 3 King County children.
As they try to balance the state's budget, lawmakers are considering eliminating Apple Health for Kids for approximately 27,000 children.