HEALTHY FAMILIES: Docs File Suit Over Vaccines For Kiddiecare
The California Medical Association yesterday "sued the federal government, formally challenging its refusal to provide free vaccinations to hundreds of thousands of children eligible for the new Healthy Families insurance program," the Los Angeles Times reports. "The dispute stems from a determination by the U.S. Health Care Financing Administration that federal law prohibits dispensing free vaccines to kids who have private health insurance, including those covered by the Healthy Families program." The decision "jolted" state officials who said the purpose of the program "is to provide key health services to several hundred thousand children who would otherwise go uninsured." Elizabeth McNeil, director of medical policy for the state association, said, "These children are uninsured. That's why they are eligible for this program."
The Times reports that the state "could purchase federal vaccines at a discounted rate," instead of relying on the federal government's free Vaccines for Children Program, which provides children on Medicaid or without insurance with free vaccinations. But that would cost California as much as $25 million. McNeil said, "We could use that money to cover more children in the program instead of spending it on vaccines." Another option would be to require the health plans that the state contracts with "to provide the vaccines." But CMA says "the fixed rates that doctors will receive are based on Medi-Cal rates and do not cover vaccination costs," which would be "a disincentive for doctors to participate in the program." HCFA spokesperson Chris Peacock "declined comment on the lawsuit, saying only that, 'ensuring that all children receive immunization is a top priority for us'" (Marquis, 5/13).
Not To Worry
"State health officials moved Tuesday to reassure uninsured families that they will have access to free vaccines under the Healthy Families program," Sacramento Bee reports. According to officials, "immunizations are a covered benefit under Healthy Families," and "health plans contracting with the state to participate in the program have agreed to pay for them" (Griffith, 5/13).