HHS APPROVES PLAN TO EXPAND COVERAGE TO 3,000 ADDITIONAL CHILDREN IN MONTANA
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt today approved a Montana plan to expand health coverage to 3,000 additional children from low-income families in the state.
The state’s enrollment cap will increase from 10,900 to 13,900, as authorized by the Montana State Legislature in 2005, under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), a federal-state partnership program.
The approval made several other changes in Montana ’s SCHIP, including the elimination of income documentation as a requirement for the application process and providing enhanced mental health services to the enrollees.
The state budget projects $24.7 million in total federal and state costs for the program, including $4.9 million for the 3,000 additional children. The Montana legislature also has authorized SCHIP to match up to $2.1 million in federal payments with private donations as a new source of funds. More than $10,000 in private donations has been raised to date.
“These changes in the state’s plan will provide vital health care services to more children whose families earn a bit too much to qualify for Medicaid,” Secretary Leavitt said. “We are trying to do everything we can to make health care available to all children.”
To simplify the enrollment process, the state will no longer require income documentation. Instead to ensure that families are within the SCHIP guidelines, random quality assurance reviews will be conducted on 10 percent of the applicants. Families being reviewed will be given two weeks to provide required income documentation to stay in the program.
“I am pleased to endorse Montana ’s decision to expand SCHIP coverage to more children,” said Mark B. McClellan, M.D., Ph.D., administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). “As a physician, I recognize how critical this care is for the well-being of these youngsters, including the plan’s statewide mental health program for children diagnosed with serious emotional problems.”
SCHIP was enacted in 1997 with a budget of $40 billion over 10 years. Every state, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories operate SCHIP programs, which provide health insurance coverage to children in families with incomes too high for traditional Medicaid, but yet not enough to afford private coverage.
The Montana plan also reduces the waiting period to qualify for SCHIP from three months to one month in the event of losing health insurance coverage. And it shortens the waiting period in event of a parent’s death, or loss of insurance due to a change in employment.
In addition, the application process is simplified by replacing a 16-page form with a four-page SCHIP application.
“We agreed that 16 pages were too much of a burden on the applicants to complete,” Dr. McClellan said. “Families were required to provide too much additional information to be eligible.”