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Ohio "Weathering the Storm" in Children's Coverage

September 21, 2009

COLUMBUS, Ohio - There's good news and bad news for Ohio's children. Despite a very difficult economy and budget cuts, Ohio is "weathering the storm" in children's health coverage. A new report by Georgetown University Health Policy Institute finds Ohio is part of national trend toward insuring all children, thanks in part to a provision in the state budget to include more children under the Medicaid/CHIPRA program.

However, the director of health policy for Voices for Ohio's Children, Mary Wachtel, says enrollment is stalled because the money earmarked for the program is part of the state's tobacco settlement fund, which is currently the subject of a court case.

"Twenty-six thousand children stand to benefit from gaining health coverage. Once Ohio releases the funds for this, we'll be that much closer to finishing the job of providing health coverage for all of our kids."

Ronda Prindle's son, Marcus, is among those who would receive coverage under the new provision in the state budget. His father died two years ago, and an increase this year in the death benefit pushed the family over the threshold for Medicaid. As a result, Rhonda says, she and Marcus now have no health insurance coverage.

"Since he did lose his coverage, I could not send him to speech therapy any longer. He does get allergy shots, but I'm having to administer those at home plus buy the allergy vial. I want to get him into counseling because of the loss of his father and I'm not able to do that right now, either."

Ronda says she hopes the state releases the money or finds another source of funding so children like Marcus can receive the coverage they need.

The report also highlights the need to learn from the success of children's coverage and apply it to broader health reform. It should include family-friendly enrollment, Wachtel says, and coverage that is affordable and includes children's developmental and preventative care.

The full report is available at http://ccf.georgetown.edu/index/weathering-the-storm.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH