Barbara Best is Texas Executive Director of the Children's Defense Fund and says she's figured out why it appeared so many kids would drop off the Medicaid rolls in just a few weeks.
"The Health and Human Services Commission has admitted that applications were lost around the time of the hurricane and they will honor a family's statement that they applied in September and October and never heard anything back. And so we are encouraging families to go back to the Medicaid office where they applied before the end of the year and let the Medicaid workers know when they applied for coverage and at which office and their application should be expedited so that those children can get reinstated."
With a potential fix for the lost paperwork problem, Best is still worried about the longer-term stability of the Children's Medicaid program. She wants to clear what she considers unnecessary red-tape for families who need the coverage.
"I'm deeply concerned that there are flaws to the Medicaid process, that families have to re-apply every six months to keep their children covered, that the computer systems are not consistent and streamline across the state. Long-term, we've got to fix these problems and make sure that we've got an efficient system, especially now in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike and in a struggling economy, we've got to make sure that these programs are operating efficiently so that struggling families can get the help that they need."
In the last legislative session, state lawmakers passed a bill that now allows families in the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, to re-apply only once a year instead of twice. State Representative Sylvester Turner says doing that for Children's Medicaid could cost upwards of 500-million dollars.
"If we don't do it, it will cost us even more in terms of increased premiums, emergency room costs and additional costs to local property taxpayers as well as the impact that it will have on kids who go without any form of health insurance."
Turner says he'll file a bill to reduce how many times a family has to re-apply for Medicaid coverage.