Children of Ike victims may lose health coverage

Published 9:49 am Friday, December 19, 2008

Thousands of children may lose health coverage

AUSTIN (AP) – At least 36,000 children living in the areas affected by Hurricane Ike may not have health coverage next year because their families have not re-enrolled them in government health insurance programs for 2009, state officials said.

Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, said more than half of the 72,000 children statewide who did not re-enroll in Medicaid are from the Houston and Beaumont areas – both hit by Hurricane Ike.

She said the agency is investigating why many families did not return application renewal forms which were mailed to their homes.

“We expect to see some swings in enrollment, but this was bigger than normal. Seeing a higher percentage from one area also raised warning signs that we need to stop and take a look at this,” said Goodman in a story for Thursday’s online edition of the Houston Chronicle.

Children will have coverage through the end of the year as agency workers call families to find out why they did not submit applications.

“In the aftermath of Hurricane Ike and a worsening economy, it is critical that safety net programs are operating as efficiently as possible so that struggling families can get the help that they need,” said Barbara Best of the Houston-based Children’s Defense Fund Texas office.

Medicaid coverage applies to children whose families are at federal poverty levels, meaning a family of three would earn no more than $17,600. CHIP coverage is available for a similar family earning up to twice that amount.

Ike blasted ashore near Galveston on Sept. 13, flattening buildings and killing at least 37 people in Texas.

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