Gov. Mark R. Warner came home to Alexandria on Tuesday to the Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology to announce an 11-point plan to keep the Commonwealth’s children insured.
“We are here today to celebrate the success of Virginia’s Children’s Health Insurance Program,” said Steve Hart, the chair of the Arlandria Neighborhood Health Service Board. “The Arlandria Health Center is proud to be part of Virginia’s FAMIS and FAMIS Plus program.” The Arlandria Health Clinic is Northern Virginia’s only federally qualified community health center.
The governor congratulated clinic staff for their work. “The Arlandria clinic is one of our real success stories,” Warner said. “It is one of the reasons that we have been so successful in providing primary healthcare to Virginia’s children.”
When Warner was elected, he renewed his commitment to substantially increase the number of children in Virginia who were registered for the state’s publicly supported health insurance programs for children, FAMIS and FAMIS Plus.
“In the recent past, Virginia returned $56 million to the federal government because people who were eligible for healthcare were not identified,” Warner said. “We should never return money to Washington.”
By September 2002, Virginia had done much to move from among the bottom states in the nation in insuring children, to near the top in enrollment. Warner helped change policies that discouraged participation, simplified the forms and the process, improved coordination of the FAMIS and FAMIS Plus program, made the program more accessible to working families, and engaged in a campaign to inform parents. “We took a 12-page form and turned it into a one-page form,” Warner said. “It is so simple that I was able to use my mas o menos español (more or less Spanish) to enroll a family at the Arlandria clinic.”
THE EFFORTS WORKED. “There was an immediate and dramatic surge in the number of children covered by FAMIS and FAMIS Plus, and the growth is continuing,” Warner said. “As of this month, we have surpassed the goal I set this spring. With the help of all our partners, we have enrolled an additional 102,396 uninsured children during my term. We have reached approximately 90 percent of all the children estimated to be eligible for this program. But we cannot stop here.”
The Medicaid program, now known as FAMIS Plus, and the SCHIP program, (FAMIS and the Medicaid Expansion), cover the regular care children need to keep them healthy. With FAMIS there is a small co-pay, FAMIS Plus is free. Doctor visits, hospital and emergency care, well-child and well-baby checkups, shots, prescriptions, tests and X-rays, vision and dental care and mental health care are covered in the program.
According to the statistics provided by the Children’s Health Insurance Program, there are 901 children enrolled in FAMIS in Alexandria. There are an additional 4,461 children enrolled in FAMIS Plus and 256 children enrolled in Medicaid Expansion. This leaves an estimated 1,345 eligible children left to enroll. Healthcare workers have reached 81 percent of all eligible children in the city at this time.
It isn’t just enrolling children, it’s keeping them enrolled. Each month between 10,000 and 12,000 children disappear from program rolls. For some, this is because their parents become able to afford private insurance. Some grow up or move. However, for some, it is a matter of failing to fill out renewal forms at the right time. To ensure continuity of care, the governor is proposing to research how children move on, off and between programs; survey families who have left the program; provide social services offices with grants to develop strategies to help families renew; notify families earlier that their annual renewal date is approaching; collaborate with the managed care organizations to share information; simplify the renewal form; when possible send families renewal forms with information already pre-filled; coordinate with renewal of the family’s food stamps or other benefit programs; test the use of electronic data bases to verify household incomes; allow families to apply for and renew coverage on-line in English and Spanish; work with certain partner organizations like health departments so that they can file on behalf of their clients electronically and particularly reach out to Spanish-speaking families. In the Northern Virginia area, 41 percent of all the children in FAMIS or FAMIS Plus are Hispanic/Latino children.
Families can apply for these programs by calling toll free 1-866-873-2647, visiting their local department of Social Services, health department or clinic or may obtain information on-line at www.famis.com.