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Online enrollment in CHIP shows a healthy growth

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People looking for evidence that government has become more accessible due to the Internet need look no further than the Children's Health Insurance Program.

Applying online was a huge hit for CHIP's open enrollment in November. During the two-week enrollment period, 4,191 applicants filed online — 45 percent of the 9,349 total applications.

"This shows that more and more people we serve have access to computers or the Internet," said Rod Betit, executive director of the Utah Department of Health. "Based on the success of this effort, we will continue to use online application services driven by effective outreach messages and techniques.

"Providing more e-business public health resources will not replace proven and traditional forms of outreach, but e-applications provide public health one more effective tool. The department still accepts applications by mail and in person and will continue to do so."

Gov. Mike Leavitt has set a goal of complete online government access by 2004.

"The e-government initiative is penetrating more agencies and programs," said Rhoda Nicholas, the health department's director of product strategy. "Providing an option to apply online saves numerous government resources and offers convenience to the public."

The 24-hour online accessibility, plus the fact that CHIP applications can be filed at computers at public libraries and Department of Workforce Services offices, are attractions to filing with computers.

"The Internet allows many of our families who work during business hours or live far from an eligibility office to apply for CHIP," said Amy Bingham, CHIP program manager. "With CHIP enrollment only open for two weeks in November, it was great to have the Internet so that, in less than 15 minutes, people could apply online and not have to worry about their application arriving in time by mail."

In addition to CHIP, the Primary Care Network, a health insurance program for adults who can't afford private insurance, has seen a fair number of online applicants. Since the network began in July, 10 percent of applicants have submitted their documents online. Nearly 10,000 people are enrolled in PCN.

E-mail: bwallace@desnews.com