HHS taps youth sports in attempt to hike Medicaid, CHIP enrollment

The Obama administration will soon launch a program aiming to enroll kids in subsidized health insurance plans by tapping a system in which 44 million children are already participating: youth sports.

The seven-state pilot is designed to cover the millions of uninsured kids who are eligible for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) but have not signed up.

Under the experimental program, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will provide youth sports coaches with training and information on Medicaid and CHIP, in hopes that they'll pass the news on to eligible families. CMS will also promote the insurance programs at certain youth sports events in the participating states.

"Even as we move forward with health insurance reform for all Americans, we must not lose our momentum to insure kids now,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. “Kids should not have to miss out on their favorite sports and other activities that get them moving because they lack health insurance coverage."

A recent report from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) indicates that outreach could use a boost. Of the 8.1 million kids estimated to lack health insurance coverage in 2008, KFF found, more than half were eligible for Medicaid or CHIP but not enrolled.

The states affected by CMS' pilot program are Colorado, Florida, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Ohio and Wisconsin.