20101228 children receive emergency care at pediatric hospi 18
Hospital administrators say that almost half the children they admit are already covered by a government plan, mostly Medicaid. - 


JEREMY HOBSON: Alabama got a $55 million bonus from the Obama administration this week for making it easier to sign up kids for insurance under Medicaid.

As Gregory Warner reports now from the Marketplace Health Desk at WHYY in Philadelphia, the money is going to states like Alabama that are doing the best job at minimizing red-tape.

GREGORY WARNER: Here's an example of bureaucracy at work. You cannot renew Medicaid for all your kids on the same day. This in many states. You have to bring in each kid on the anniversary of the day he enrolled. Usually his birthday. Parents miss the deadline, their kid gets dropped from coverage. Happy birthday.

HELEN NEUBORNE: This is not only a burden for the family, but it's an insane burden for the agency, which simply has to redo its work over and over again.

Helen Neuborne is with the Ford Foundation. It's funding a demonstration project to help states simplify enrollment. She says some states prefer to keep it complicated.

NEUBORNE: Knowing that what happens is that families simply can't get through the paperwork and therefore they lose the benefit. And that becomes a way for a state to -- in sort of a back-door way -- reduce the number of people claiming state funds.

To win the federal grant, Alabama ended the bring-each-kid-on-their-birthday rule. It also made forms you can sign electronically. Similar changes could be in store for your state. The health care reform law mandates streamlined enrollment nationwide by 2014.

In Philadelphia I'm Gregory Warner for Marketplace.

Follow Gregory Warner at @radiogrego