Lake of Funds Stunts LaCHIP

While a program offering free health insurance for children of the working poor grows, plans to expand it to cover pregnant women and some parents remain on hold. The culprit is lack of funds. Between August and November, more than 3,300 children were enrolled in the government-funded health insurance program, the result of a big back-to-school push.

Total enrollment in Louisiana's Children's Health Insurance Program stands at 66,383 children. The children live in homes where income can be up to twice the federal poverty level, nearly 34,000 dollars for a family of four. But DHH officials have been unable to find a way to finance the legislatively-authorized expansion of the program to include some of the children's parents as well as pregnant women.

DHH Secretary David Hood says he's putting priority on trying to find money to cover pregnant women first. It will cost about $14,000,000 for an estimated 5,000 women who need pre-natal care. The cost, he says, would be offset because fewer sick babies needing expensive medical care would be delivered. Currently, pregnant women are covered if they live in homes with incomes up to 33% above poverty, $22,680 for a family of four.

The parental component will cost an estimated $230,000,000 to cover 98,000 parents. LaCHIP recipients' parents, in families with incomes up to the federal poverty level, would become eligible for the Medicaid coverage, just as their children are today. The poverty level for a family of four amounts to $17,050 in annual income.