1. Hawaii Expands Income Limits for Children's Public Health Insurance
Great news! Children and youth may qualify at 250% of the federal poverty level for free QUEST and Medicaid Fee-for-Service programs and if the household income is between 251-300% kids may qualify with monthly premiums ranging between $15-60 per child. Go to this link for a chart with household sizes and gross monthly income limits.
Note: Premiums payments were eliminated beginning 4 April 2008, therefore children may qualify for free up to 300% of the federal poverty level.
2. Senate Finance Begins to Prepare for CHIP Reauthorization
Created in 1997 with bipartisan congressional support, the State Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), along with Medicaid, have helped the nation move closer to the goal of covering all children. Together, they have reduced the uninsured rate of low-income children by one-third. The federal law authorizing CHIP will expire September 30, 2007 and until it is reauthorized no new federal CHIP funds will be available after that date. As Congress works to update the CHIP law, it is likely financing will be a focus of the congressional debate, including how much money should be dedicated to the program, what is the best way to distribute available funds among the states, and how states should be allowed to use CHIP. The Center for Children and Families has a CHIP Portal with more information.
3. Mississippi: Medicaid Roll Cuts
Last year 50,000 people dropped off Mississippi Medicaid rolls after skipping face-to-face meetings to keep their government-funded health insurance benefits. A shrinking enrollment and prescription limits saved taxpayers $150 million in the state's most costly agency, Medicaid Executive Director Bob Robinson told lawmakers Thursday. "We're trying to get around to all of them (Medicaid recipients) once a year," Robinson said. "There are a lot of them that simply were not eligible to begin with.” But the recertification process Robinson praised--a hot-button issue in 2004--could be revisited in January.
House Public Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, said the process leaves too many people uninsured. The budget-writing committee closed two weeks of hearings Thursday. The meetings are the first step to create a more than $4 billion state budget for the fiscal year that begins in July. Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program that serves more than 600,000 people, asked for $569.7 million--the same amount officials expect to spend this year.
After the hearing, social advocates criticized the agency, saying too many children were without health care and slipped off the rolls. The number of young Mississippians in the Children's Health Insurance Program fell by 3,923 to 63,547 last year.
"Our concern is that everybody recognizes that prevention is important," said Pam Shaw, political consultant with the Children's Defense Fund. "We now have children who don't have access to the basic stuff." Robinson said many of those children are now on private insurance. Sen. Terry Burton, R-Newton, agreed. "I think in many cases you've just got parents who don't know what to do, or know what to do and don't do it," said Burton, a member of the Public Health and Welfare Committee. "You have to depend on the adults to take care of their children." [Laura Hipp, The Clarion-Ledger, 09/29/06]
4. CMS Issues Final CHIP Allotments
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the availability of $5 billion in State Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) allotments for fiscal year 2007. Allotments range from a high of $790 million for California to a low of $5.7 million for Vermont. CHIP allotments totaled $4.9 billion for state child health plans and the FY 2007 allotment for CHIP plans operated in U.S. territories is $52.5 million. The $5 billion level is set by the 1997 law that established CHIP. Under the federal CHIP law, a state can use its annual allotment over a three-year period then unspent funds are redistributed to states with depleted CHIP allotments. The information can be downloaded in PDF format at Federal Register/Vol. 71, No. 145/Friday, July 28, 2006/Notices.
5. Connecticut: Speaker Vows All Children to Have Health Insurance
House Speaker James A. Amann says one of his highest priorities for 2007 is to pass legislation requiring all Connecticut children to have health insurance. Amann, D-Milford, who's had a working group studying children's health care issues for the past year, said he doesn't envision a system with all children on state-sponsored insurance. But the speaker also said lawmakers no longer would tolerate roughly 70,000 children lacking coverage, adding it could mean the state spending more to guarantee health care for children than it does now.
"We're tired of having to scratch and claw to maintain what we have," Amann added. "We're going to tackle this problem." The problem the speaker cites is estimates of 68,000 to 71,000 children lacking health coverage. Connecticut Voices for Children, a New Haven-based nonprofit group, reported last week that enrollment in Husky, the state-subsidized health insurance program for poor families, has dropped by 25,000 people over the past year, including about 18,000 children. There have been monthly premium hikes, new copayments, changes in eligibility rules, cutbacks in outreach spending, a complex application process, and even legislation to block prescription requests from those who fail to pay.
State government will spend an estimated $700 million this fiscal year providing insurance for just over 299,000 people, including 216,000 children and 18-year-olds. Husky eligibility rules classify 18-year-olds as children. Most pay no monthly premiums. Families earning 235 percent of more of the federal poverty level--for a household of three that's about $37,800 per year--pay up to $50 per month. The speaker also said it's imperative that the state step up efforts to market the Husky program, particularly by working closely with community-based clinics and other providers that serve poor families.
State government used to spend about $4 million annually to market the Husky program, including television and radio public service announcements and promotions through health clinics and other community-based care providers. Husky outreach spending has dwindled steadily since then and, according to the legislature's Office of Fiscal Analysis, stood at $850,000 last fiscal year. [Keith M. Phaneuf, Journal Inquirer, 09/12/2006]