Proclaimed and celebrated Children’s Health Insurance Program Day in Alabama

The Children’s Health Insurance Program has provided children and youth with greater access to health care and greater financial protection for families in Alabama for the past 25 years, and the program marked this milestone with a celebratory anniversary celebration that included a press conference and reception in Montgomery.

Governor Kay Ivey has declared October 14 as Children’s Health Insurance Day in Alabama. Her recorded message, played at the press conference, saluted the universally popular program that has had a major impact on child health care in the state.

“Over the past 25 years, the children’s health insurance program known as ALL Kids in Alabama has opened new doors to quality health care for more than 1.6 million children in our state by offering a superior comprehensive health insurance plan,” said Governor Ivey. “I want to congratulate the Alabama Children’s Health Insurance program on their silver anniversary and make a positive impact on Alabama families. I have designated October 14th as Children’s Health Insurance Program Day to celebrate this special occasion.”

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris stated, “This significant milestone could not have been achieved without the years of collaboration from our partners and our CHIP team. Prior to the program’s inception, at least 15 percent of Alabama’s children were uninsured, and now Alabama ranks higher than the United States for child insurance. We remain committed to improving the health and life of this vulnerable population.”

dr Harris commended the leadership and continuity of the program, which has significantly transformed lives by providing access to care through insurance coverage. Former State Health Officer Dr. Donald Williamson and two former CHIP directors spoke about how the program has evolved and expanded despite the challenges. Alabama’s CHIP program is the result of a partnership between the Alabama Department of Public Health, the Alabama Medicaid Agency, and the Alabama Child Caring Foundation.

Other partners in the federal-state partnership include the medical community, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Alabama Chapter; the Alabama Academy of Family Physicians; Children’s of Alabama, the University of South Alabama Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Alabama governors and legislators over the years, and many others including several commissioners from Medicaid, Mental Health and Rehabilitation Services, and numerous advocacy groups.

Due to the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, CHIP also funds two groups of Medicaid-eligible children (MCHIP) in addition to the ALL Kids Program, and the program partners with Medicaid in a dual enrollment system that keeps the application process streamlined and easy for applicants to navigate with the “no wrong door” approach.

dr Williamson, who headed the department when the program went into effect in 1997 until his retirement in 2015, said the goal of child advocacy from the start was to cover as many eligible children as possible with minimal co-payments. He said: “Our coverage of children stands out as a shining beacon and I’m very grateful to have had a small part in it.”

Gayle Sandlin, the founding director of the program, called her career at CHIP a “phenomenal experience” and thanked Dr. Williamson and former Staff Assistant Kathy Vincent for their vision and determination to establish and sustain the program as a priority. Alabama was the first state in the country to have its CHIP plan approved. Early achievements included the establishment of program eligibility by declaration and an early push towards electronic application.

Alabama’s second CHIP director, Cathy Caldwell, described the implementation of the program as “a collaborative process from day one.” commended “the passion, energy and commitment of so many institutions” and the decision to make every policy decision family-friendly.

ALL CHILDREN 25th Anniversary - Governor's Office

Pictured signing the proclamation are, left to right, Dr. Scott Harris, state health officer; Keith Wright, Head of CHIP Program Services; Wanda J. Davis, CHIP Assistant Director; Tara Freeman, CHIP program operations director; Governor Ivey; dr Karen Landers, Chief Medical Officer; Stephanie McGee Azar, JD, Commissioner, Alabama Medicaid Agency; Gretel Felton, Director, Beneficiary, Alabama Medicaid Agency; and Catherine Molchan Donald, Public Health Administrator and acting CHIP Director.