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Half of All Mississippi Kids Could Soon Be On Medicaid or CHIP

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 01 Mar 2012 06:03pm | comments
Welsey Prater.

New research shows that the recent health care overhaul could mean a growing number of Mississippi kids will get their health insurance through the government. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports child welfare advocates see the expansion as good news for the health of Mississippi's youngest residents.

When the law takes full effect in 2014, it will bring with it an expansion of Medicaid which could bring more of Mississippi's kids into the program.

Georgetown University health policy analyst Welsey Prater says that change could mean more than half of Mississippi's kids will be covered under Medicaid or CHIP.

"We really want kids to be covered. If kids get sick, they are going to miss school more days if they are sick and don't have coverage. Also we hope that they will be healthy and be more productive in the future. Focus on preventive care. We think it is definitely an important issue," Prater said.

Currently more than 60-thousand Medicaid eligible Mississippi kids are not on the program.

Prater blames what he calls 'red tape' or barriers to enrollment for driving some kids off the program...particularly the requirement that Medicaid recipients re-enroll in person every year.

Betty Williams...a deputy administrator for enrollment at the division of Medicaid...disagrees that the re-enrollment process is a burden.

"We do not feel that it is a red tape issue. We feel that we are accessible to our applicants. We are in over 130 locations to file an application. We sign children up for their screening providers during this in person interview. And we have always felt that it has value," Williams said.

Mississippi is the only state in the nation with an in person re-enrollment procedure and a clause in the health care reform law could invalidate that rule in 2014.

Pam Shaw with the Center for Education Innovation says bringing more kids onto the program is an inexpensive way to improve the health of Mississippi as a whole.

"We don't talk about the separation of cost for children versus the cost of disabled and the elderly. That is really where the cost is. And insuring children is an investment in our children's future and ultimately our future," Shaw said.

However, the future of the Medicaid expansion remains in doubt...that provision is part of the constitutional challenge to the law that the US Supreme Court will hear this month.

This story is part of a reporting partnership that includes MPB, NPR and Kaiser Health News.

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Welsey Prater.


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