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Activism in an Age of Restraint: The Resiliency of Administrative Structure in Implementing the State Children's Health Insurance Program

Author: L. CHRISTOPHER PLEIN
Published in JHHSA, Vol. 27 No. 2

This article examines state efforts to build administrative structures and outreach networks in the State Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through a comparative review of 18 states that have been the subject of ongoing research by the Nelson A. Rockafeller Institute of Government. The article explores the role that institutional structures play at the state level in shaping the implementation and administration of federal policy choices. States have generally opted to rely largely on existing Medicaid bureaucracies in order to implement the new CHIP programs. As a result, CHIP programs have been tightly integrated into existing Medicaid structures. Rarely put forward as exemplars of responsiveness and, these bureaucracies have nonetheless played a crucial role in building and managing CHIP programs across the United States. As this analysis will show, this has even been the case in those few states that have opted to officially house CHIP administration outside of the Medicaid bureaucracy. Furthermore, existing Medicaid systems have often been active as partners and participants in efforts to publicize and promote the CHIP program through outreach and education efforts. As part of these initiatives, efforts have been made to portray CHIP as a form of health insurance rather than a welfare benefit. A slight paradox results where key actors in the health and human services bureaucracy play an active role in program management while making efforts to disassociate the program from the traditional welfare system. These efforts have been largely successful. And in doing so, not only have children been brought into the CHIP program but more families have been connected to the Medicaid program. In short, a review of state experiences reveals the resiliency and flexibility of existing state administrative systems in responding to and addressing substantive policy change.

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