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This column features selected short items about state health care policy.
Two counties to take part in Kid Care health plan
EUGENE, OR—One in five children in Lincoln County, OR, has no health insurance and nearly 50% are living below the federal poverty level or close to it. That’s why Gov. Ted Kulongoski has picked the county, as well as Hood River County, to participate in a pilot project of his Kid Care initiative. As many as 1,500 children in the two counties may be eligible for state health care programs, so state and county officials will work together to reach out to families of uninsured children and get them enrolled in state health insurance programs. "One of my top priorities for Oregon is to ensure all children have access to basic physical and mental health care," he said in a statement. The state Department of Human Services will support existing coalitions and health care networks in the two counties by providing fliers, posters, and brochures offering training and sending out letters to parents. In both counties, 48% of children and teens live in households with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level — that’s $31,344 a year for a family of three. Both counties are already working to identify uninsured children. —Eugene Register-Guard, Sept. 3, 2004
Medicaid overhaul pushed in Georgia
ATLANTA—Georgia plans to move 1 million low-income people on Medicaid into HMO-like organizations — a cost-cutting tactic representing one of the biggest changes in the government program’s history. The plan is being pushed by Gov. Sonny Perdue in response to spending increases of 10% to 12% a year in Georgia Medicaid. The change is necessary "because we cannot sustain the program in its current form," he said. Some experts said converting 1 million people enrolled in Medicaid to HMOs may cause problems for patients. Currently, these Medicaid recipients are in a fee-for-service system, where they can go to any doctor who accepts Medicaid. The new managed-care plan is expected to begin in January 2006. But other major changes in Medicaid may come sooner. The switch to HMOs would affect about 1 million children, pregnant women, and adults in low-income families in Georgia: 40% of the cost of the state’s Medicaid program, or about $2.2 billion annually in federal and state funds. —Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Aug. 23, 2004