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Healthy Incentive: Mississippi may be on to something. The state has offered to pay its local schools for every eligible student they sign up for a free health-insurance program for children.

Tens of thousands of uninsured Mississippi children are believed to be eligible for the federally funded Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, but are not enrolled.

In an effort to reduce those numbers, every school in the state has been given information on CHIP and will receive $20 for every new child who is identified and successfully enrolled, said Maria D. Morris, the CHIP coordinator for the state's division of Medicaid. The division is sponsoring the initiative along with the state departments of finance and administration, health, human services, and education.

CHIP is aimed at uninsured children under 19 from families that are ineligible for Medicaid—the federal government's health insurance for the poor—but that do not have access to affordable health insurance. States have had mixed success in enrolling children eligible for the program. ( "News: States Move Swiftly on Child-Insurance Front," May 27, 1998.)

Mary Kahn, a spokeswoman for the Health Care Financing Administration, an office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said that it is not unusual for states to have contractors who are paid to sign up children. But she knows of none other than Mississippi that has paid schools to do so.

Yet many states do turn to schools to get the word out about CHIP. California has used various school-based initiatives that involve partnerships with health organizations. And other states have distributed thousands of brochures to their schools.

Under the Mississippi incentive program, which began last month, schools can use the money from CHIP enrollments for their own purposes.

How much they collect will depend on how aggressive they are, Ms. Morris said.

"We're providing schools with outreach materials, but leaving it up to them to reach students," she said.

—Adrienne D. Coles

Vol. 20, Issue 1, Page 34

Published in Print: September 6, 2000, as State Journal

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