State-sponsored health program untested

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 31, 2000

Two years ago state lawmakers began a new, innovative program aimed at providing healthcare coverage for thousands of children in Mississippi.

On paper it seemed like such a wonderful idea — provide healthcare to the needy children of our state. But a lack of participation has some folks doubting its validity.

We still believe the plan was a good one, and if the statistics are correct, the need for children’s healthcare obviously exists. But for some reason few people have actually participated in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has many lawmakers and healthcare officials scratching their heads.

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Currently only about 8,300 children are participating in CHIP. And although that may sound like good participation, it’s almost one-tenth of the original estimates. State statisticians estimate that about 85,000 of the more than 140,000 uninsured children could be eligible to participate in the program.

The program is designed to help the children that often fall through the cracks — the ones who are ineligible for Medicaid but do not have private insurance coverage.

Children in a family of four with income up to $34,000 a year can qualify for the medical coverage.

Tuesday, Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and members of the Mississippi Hospital Association joined forces to get the word out about the program. Also in the works are plans to use the Department of Education’s list of children who receive free and reduced lunches to help target possible participants.

The state needs to continue doing what it can to get the word out about the existence of CHIP, but those doing the pushing need to realize only a fine line separates publicity and shoving government handouts down citizens’ throats.

Let’s do our best to get the word out about the program, see if interest exists. If it exists, great. The program will be a success. If not, let’s rethink the program and find another way to ensure that our children have health coverage.