LOUISIANA: Kiddiecare Plan Wins Federal Approval
Federal officials Tuesday approved Louisiana's Kiddiecare program, which will expand Medicaid coverage to 58,000 children of the working poor beginning Nov. 1. The state Department of Health and Hospitals will mount a "massive" outreach effort to enroll eligible children -- those under the age of 19 from families earning up to 133% of the poverty level. The program, known as LaCHIP (short for Louisiana Children's Health Insurance Program) will be covered by $25 million in federal funding and $9 million in state funds. A new, streamlined, two-page application will replace the former 14-page Medicaid application form. The new form has attracted national attention "because it is one of the most user-friendly in the country," said Calvin Cline, a Health Care Financing Administration official.
Under LaCHIP, children will be eligible for a year at a time, even if family income rises above eligibility limits (Shuler, Baton Rouge Advocate, 10/21). "By insuring children for longer periods of time, their continuity of care will be enhanced," said DHH Secretary David Hood. LaCHIP will cover primary and emergency care, immunizations, prescriptions, hospitalization, home-health care and other services. State Sen. Don Hines (D), chair of the LaCHIP task force established by Gov. Mike Foster (R), said, "For many of our working poor, health care coverage has not been affordable. Today, this changes for thousands of Louisiana families. I am proud that we will soon see a healthier future for our children" (DHH release, 10/20). The state has also established a toll-free information line that parents can call: (877) 252-2447.
Future Plans Uncertain
Currently, 22.2% of the state's children lack health insurance, the third highest rate of uninsurance in the nation, according to 1997 statistics from the Children's Defense Fund (Advocate, 10/21). But state officials hope to improve that record by enrolling 28,000 children in LaCHIP by September 2000. Previously, Louisiana's Medicaid program only covered children ages 6 to 14 from families earning under 100% of the poverty level; for children ages 14 to 18 to receive Medicaid, their families had to earn less than 10% of the poverty level (HHS release, 10/20). The LaCHIP task force recommended that the program be implemented in three phases, extending coverage in the second year to children from families earning up to 150% of the poverty level, and in the third year to children from families earning up to 200% of the poverty level (DHH release, 10/20). But Andy Kopplin, Gov. Foster's policy advisor, said the governor "has not committed beyond the current program." He said the administration must "look very seriously at the budget" to determine available revenues before making a final decision (Advocate, 10/21).