Children’s Programs Slowly Moving Forward at MRMIB

Reports of the demise of the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board were a little premature. There it was, alive and well at its monthly meeting last week, discussing expansion of existing programs and establishment of new ones.

MRMIB runs four programs: Healthy Families, Access for Infants and Mothers (AIM), the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) and the Major Risk Medical Insurance Program (MRMIP).

The agency was slated for elimination under the governor’s May budget revision. The current plan still is to phase out MRMIB’s activities by 2014, when much of its mission will be taken over by the new federal health care reform law. But when the Gov. Jerry Brown (D) announced in May that he wanted to move 900,000 children from the Healthy Families program to a Medi-Cal managed care plan, Brown also proposed the quick elimination of MRMIB, since Healthy Families is such a large part of what MRMIB does.

That suggested elimination prompted a three-page response of protest from MRMIB officials, which remains posted prominently on its website.

Once the state decided to move a bit more slowly on transitioning youngsters out of Healthy Families, that gave new life to MRMIB. Now there is talk of actually expanding MRMIB’s role, as it might be the agency to implement the proposed Basic Health Program, which is currently making its way through the Legislature with little opposition. The BHP could insure as many as 800,000 low-income Californians, and its resemblance to the patient base of Healthy Families could make it a natural fit for MRMIB.

In the meantime, the agency is busy trying to sign up more subscribers to the PCIP program, which currently has a little more than 3,300 people signed up.

At last week’s meeting, MRMIB staff was directed to work with the Department of Insurance to send out a letter to alert eligible beneficiaries to the benefits of the program. “I agree that what they’ve done so far is relatively passive,” board chair Cliff Allenby said.

“If it’s the only marketing tool we have for now,” board member Richard Figueroa added, “I’d like to make it more spicy.”

MRMIB also is launching an organized outreach effort, and a new oral health push that focuses on children, particularly those ages 6 and below.

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