The Children’s Alliance’s big legislative priority in the children’s health arena this year was preserving the Apple Health for Kids program. We got that. And we’re happy about it. But other cuts in the state budget are going to hurt the ability of kids to get in to see a doctor. And the enormous cuts to adult health coverage—most notably the 43 percent cut to Basic Health—are going to affect children as well. When parents are uninsured their children are less likely to get health care—especially preventive care. Here’s the run-down of how children’s health fared in the legislative session.
THE GOOD NEWS
- Apple Health for Kids program funded for children up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, preserving coverage for moderate- and low-income children.
- Outreach efforts to enroll eligible children in Apple Health for Kids and otherwise support families in getting the health care they need for their children got $850,000 in the final state budget. This is good because we know many eligible children don’t enroll in Apple Health for Kids because parents don’t know about the program, don’t believe they would be eligible or are overwhelmed by complications in the application process.
- The legislature passed a bill (HB 2128) to streamline enrollments and renewals in the Apple Health for Kids program. The bill also calls for improved outreach activities, which should be rewarded with more federal funding under the Children’s Health Program Reauthorization Act signed by President Barack Obama earlier this year.
- DSHS will now pay the same rates for natural versus Caesarian-section deliveries with the goal of lowering the C-section rate.
- Children in Apple Health for Kids will continue to get 20 therapy visits a year for mental health needs. The number of visits had an expiration date and was set to go down to 12 in 2010.
THE BAD NEWS
- Pediatricians and other pediatric health providers won’t get the raise they were promised back in 2007. In that year lawmakers said they would raise the rates the state pays doctors for seeing Apple Health for Kids patients by 48 percent, bringing them closer to the rates doctors get under the state’s health plan for employees (the Uniform Medical Plan). The raise was scaled back to a 15 percent increase, which adds up to a $17,881,000 cut. Advocates worry that fewer pediatricians will see Apple Health for Kids patients making it hard for them to find a doctor.
- The state is getting rid of its Universal Purchase program, which buys and distributes vaccines for all children as a strategy to boost vaccination rates. By July 1, 2010 only low-income children will get vaccines for free, paid for with federal funds. That adds up to a $55.3 million cut.
- Public Health programs took a $4 million cut in state support.
- The Foster Care Health pilot program got axed. The program provides care coordination services and gathers, organizes and maintains individual health histories of children in its care.
- A number of programs first funded in the 2008 supplemental budget were cut entirely, including lead poisoning screenings, the cord blood pilot project, and rare blood and marrow collection.