Watchdog: Miss. should change child health care

Published 11:13 pm Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A legislative watchdog agency is recommending Missisippi accept new proposals from companies interested in overseeing a children’s health care program when a contract with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi ends in 2009.

The recommendation was made public Monday in a Legislature’s Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review Committee report on the administration of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, also called CHIP.

The federal-state program was created a decade ago to subsidize health coverage for families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford their own private insurance.

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The state exercised an option that extended Blue Cross-Blue Shield’s contract as the health program’s insurer through 2009. But the watchdog group said the state should look at new proposals in 2010 to include several cost-saving measures that it recommends.

The group said it believes Mississippi has an opportunity to save money by restructuring benefits, increasing cost sharing, containing prescription drug costs and enrollment controls, the report says.

Roy Mitchell, director of Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, a nonpartisan nonprofit that works to promote health care coverage, said more enrollment controls are not needed in a state that has seen 60,000 children lose their eligibility because of strict requirements under the health program.

“In Mississippi, we have a face-to-face eligibility requirement. We have face-to-face interviews with people who are enrolled in the program and because of this … requirement, a lot of people are being removed from the roll,” Mitchell said Monday. “And the state is paying a lot to administer this program.”

The review committee said from January 2004 through June 2008, the total cost of the program was approximately $605 million. Mississippi paid $100 million, with the rest coming from the federal government.

Mississippi is one of only two states to have a face-to-face requirement and New York, the other state, does a much better job of informing people about its program, Mitchell said.

“We are not doing any outreach enrollment,” he said.

The State and School Employees’ Health Insurance Management Board administers CHIP with help from the Division of Medicaid.

The review committee does not suggest any administrative structure changes.

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