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"Express Lane" Could Help Ohio Kids Get Health and Care Services

February 23, 2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Children's advocates say it's time to eliminate unnecessary steps and get eligible Ohio children on the fast track for crucial health and care services. An estimated 77,000 uninsured children in Ohio are eligible for Medicaid/CHIP coverage and many are already enrolled in other public benefit programs, such as school lunch, food stamps, or child care.

Mary Wachtel, director of health policy for the group Voices for Ohio's Children, says the new "express lane eligibility" option can simplify the process.

"If a family has already gone through jumping the hoop to become eligible for one of those other programs, express lane now allows the Medicaid program to use that information and make a determination for the child's health care coverage."

Ohio has made some strides towards improving the Medicaid enrollment process for parents as well as children by allowing telephone renewals and requiring renewal only once a year, instead of twice.

Wachtel says now it's essential to ensure the phone renewals are used throughout Ohio. She says also that there needs to be a move to a paperless system, where workers can use data-matching to make renewals.

The Medical Director of School and Adolescent Health for the Cincinnati Health Department, Dr. Marilyn Crumpton, who is a pediatrician, says express lane eligibility is a strategy that also increases efficiencies for state and government enrollment practices.

"The fact that you are not looking at eligibility three separate times for three separate programs, where you know that they all qualify, is a really good way to save taxpayer dollars."

Dr. Crumpton says streamlining the enrollment process would also ensure children get the care they need to stay healthy, which has many other benefits.

"You would see a reduction in emergency department visits, you would see children getting more appropriate level of services, and then a decrease in frustration on the part of health-care providers."

Currently, several other states are using or considering using the "Express Lane Eligibility" option under the SCHIP reauthorization.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH