65,000 Medicaid-eligible children in S.C. about to get coverage

jholleman@thestate.comOctober 5, 2012 

About 65,000 children in South Carolina eligible for Medicaid haven’t been covered in recent years simply because their parents failed to fill out the proper paperwork.

That coverage gap is about to end. Those families will be getting letters in the coming weeks from the state, informing them that their children will be automatically enrolled in Medicaid and paired with a primary care physician as part of a coordinated care health plan, the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday.

The letter will include a toll-free number if parents want to cancel the automatic enrollment, which includes coverage for doctor visits, vaccinations and dental care.

The families in question already have qualified for food stamps and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. The children in any family that meets those financial qualifications also meets Medicaid qualifications. All of those programs are administered by DSS, but a parent who signed up for food stamps had to take a couple extra steps in the past to get Medicaid benefits.

“They had to fill out a totally different form and see a totally different worker,” said HHS spokesman Jeff Stensland.

All too often, either the parent wasn’t told of the extra steps required or didn’t take them. But DSS recently has revamped the system as part of its effort to improve the health of the state’s children. Under what is called Express Lane eligibility, DSS will match data from the various programs and automatically enroll families who have qualified for one program and haven’t signed up for another with the same eligibility guidelines.

“By connecting these children to a medical home, we will help to ensure they get the preventive care they need to stay healthy and excel in school,” said HHS director Tony Keck.

South Carolina ranked fifth from the bottom among states nationally in 2010 with 13 percent of its children lacking health insurance coverage.

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