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Good News: S.C. Medicaid May Add 70,000 Kids To Program

From The Associated Press:

By Seanna Adcox

Monday, Oct. 24, 2011

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The director of South Carolina’s Medicaid agency wants to make it easier for low-income children who already qualify for health care coverage to enroll, saying Monday it’s a conservative step toward meeting a huge unfunded liability looming in 2014.

Director Tony Keck is requesting an additional $35 million from the state in his 2012-13 budget proposal, submitted to Gov. Nikki Haley earlier this month. Nearly $30 million of that would pay to add an estimated 70,000 children to Medicaid rolls by streamlining the application process.

Officials estimate up to 89,000 children in South Carolina without health insurance qualify for a Medicaid program that covers only those 18 and under. Legislators passed a law in 2007 increasing eligibility – allowing parents’ incomes to be 200 percent of the federal poverty level, up from the state’s previous 150 percent cap. That allows a family of four, for example, to earn up to $44,700 annually and still have their children covered by Medicaid.

But advocates have long complained the previous administration didn’t work to sign children up.

“It was almost as if there was a mindset to do a lack of outreach – to not make the rules simple enough so that people didn’t get overwhelmed,” said Sue Berkowitz of the Appleseed Legal Justice Center.

Keck said his proposal would help the state prepare for portions of the federal health care law set to take effect in 2014. Most observers believe a Medicaid expansion will survive whatever the U.S. Supreme Court decides or whoever wins the 2012 elections, he said, so the fiscally responsible thing to do is begin preparing for the “minimum expected scenario.” Continue reading

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