While the New England states are leaders in the nation in reducing the number of uninsured children, with coverage rates from 94 to 98 percent across the region, there is one area where New England is falling woefully behind. According to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities only half the New England states, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, offer online applications and renewals for families trying to enroll their children in Medicaid or CHIP. This places the region squarely behind other parts of the country including the South and Northwest. With online applications available for everything from credit cards to colleges, it seems hard to believe that applications for vital health services are not available on such an efficient and accessible platform.

Many families live in rural areas without easy access to local government offices. These families would benefit from the remote access offered by online applications. Making applications available online would also reduce the potential for incomplete and misplaced submissions. Through questions, prompts and blocks that do not allow incomplete forms to be submitted, online applications provide useful feedback in a way paper applications cannot.

Given the high tech business sector in many New England states and with all the efforts states have put into achieving such high enrollment numbers, it is surprising that they have not taken advantage of this common-sense extra push. Online applications, along with other streamlined application and renewal procedures may be just what New England needs to get to 100 percent enrollment of eligible children in health coverage. Hopefully New England will make 2012 a year of great advances in coverage and consumer access starting with online applications and renewal for health benefits.

— Nicole Tambouret, Project Director New England Alliance for Children’ Health

Please note, this blog was updated to reflect Maine’s policy on electronic applications, which was not originally reflected in the report.