LaCHIP expansion off and running

A new branch of the state’s program to insure children in low- and moderate-income families has made a strong start.

More than 600 children enrolled in the first month of the “Affordable Plan” of the Louisiana Children’s Health Insurance Program, otherwise known as LaCHIP.

The purpose of the “Affordable Plan” is to provide more health insurance for children in the state. It covers children in families with incomes from twice to two-and-a-half times the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that’s $53,000.

Families must pay a monthly premium of $50, regardless of the number of children in the household, and there are deductibles and co-payments.

Families cannot drop their private insurance coverage to enroll in the program.

More than 770,000 children have health-insurance coverage through programs of the state Department of Health and Hospitals. Of that number, nearly 650,000 get insurance through Medicaid, the state’s insurance program for the poor.

The remaining 120,000-plus children are covered by LaCHIP.

DHH expects to add 6,500 children via the traditional LaCHIP and the “Affordable Plan” during the current fiscal year that ends June 30, 2009.

“One thing I have been impressed with has been the assertiveness of our programs in getting our children enrolled,” said DHH Secretary Alan Levine.

Children enrolled in the “Affordable Plan” are covered through the state’s Group Benefits plans. The children do not have to see physicians who are enrolled Medicaid providers.

Levine said because of a shortfall in the number of pediatric, general practice and specialty physicians that have agreed to the reimbursement rates provided by Medicaid, enrollment in LaCHIP doesn’t guarantee access.

However, Levine said DHH is designing a program for a network of private providers, patterned after what private insurance companies offer.

All of this signals good news for Louisiana children and their parents or guardians.

– American Press, Lake Charles, La.