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HMSA keeps kid health program


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POSTED: Friday, January 30, 2009

About 1,000 of the 2,400 children in the Keiki Care Program when the state suddenly stopped funding it Nov. 1 are getting health coverage through the Hawaii Medical Service Association's Children's Plan.

  ;  HMSA, which had partnered with the Department of Human Services to provide universal health care to Hawaii's children under the unique Keiki Care program, continued benefits while notifying families of the state action and options.

The association contracted with Catholic Charities to call the families and encourage them to apply for the state's QUEST or Medicaid health insurance or enroll in HMSA's Children's Plan, said Cliff Cisco, HMSA senior vice president.

“;The state gave the kids two weeks' (notice); HMSA gave them 21/2 months,”; said Jennifer Diesman, HMSA assistant vice president of government.

“;We thought sending them letters isn't going to do it,”; she said, adding that calling the affected families isn't easy, but Catholic Charities probably has reached 600 to 700 of them.

The state and HMSA each were paying $55 per child for the Keiki Care plan, established under legislation passed in 2007.

HMSA had asked for an increase to $70 from $55 per month per child for its Children's Plan but went back to the insurance commission for a decrease to keep the $55 rate, Diesman said. “;We subsidize the balance.”;

Among reasons for abruptly dropping the program, the administration said Medicaid eligibility had been expanded so families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level ($73,000 annually for a four-member family) can qualify for health coverage.

Keiki Care started last April with a goal to provide health benefits to 3,500 children who did not have health insurance and could not qualify for Medicaid.

The administration said the program was not meeting its goal, but Diesman said, “;We were enrolling 100 new kids a month, which was about right. We were kind of on track.”;

Many former Keiki Care families could qualify for Medicaid now because of increased eligibility, she said, “;but we still have pukas of people who fall out of the scope of it.”;

Legislators are introducing bills to try to restore Keiki Care, either through the Department of Human Services or a nonprofit agency contracting with HMSA, she said.