Enrolling the Eligible

From 1999 through 2007, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) funded two major national programs to close the gap between those who are eligible for Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program but not enrolled—Covering Kids and its successor, Covering Kids & Families®. In all, 113 grantees tested new strategies to target and enroll eligible individuals and identify barriers at the local level.

This article, written by the programs’ evaluators, describes the lessons that can be drawn from the RWJF experience for use by other foundations interested in ameliorating social problems by extending the reach of existing programs.

The evaluators employed an innovative evaluation design and used multiple methods to collect data, including an online grantee reporting system; Web and telephone surveys of program directors, coalition members, state officials and grantee staff; and in-person meetings with grantees and state staff.

The eight program lessons provided are matched to the three stages in the life cycle of a program—start-up, maturity and perpetuation or program death. Three other lessons relate to using program evaluations, including to improve future program operations.

"The lessons of dealing with uncertainty, building an evidence base and supporting sustainability, among others, could support the success of new programs in new areas of public policy,” the evaluators conclude.