• 46°

Insurance changes could affect 1,000 Lawrence County children

Another 1,000 Lawrence County children may be eligible for government-funded health insurance under the new Ohio budget signed into law late last week by Gov. Ted Strickland.

Beginning July 1, the new spending plan expands the state’s Medicaid program to include more poor children and expands the State Children’s Health Insurance Program to cover children in families earning up to 300 percent of the poverty level.

The eligibility had been 200

percent of the poverty level, or $2,862 per month for a family of three. The expansion makes this assistance available to a family of three if their monthly income is $4,293.

Gene Myers, director of Lawrence County Jobs and Family Services, said as of January 2004, 7,675 Lawrence County children aged 18 and under were served by the state’s Healthy Start program, which administers the health insurance program.

He said he is uncertain how many more kids will be eligible for the state assistance, but estimated it could be as many as 1,000.

“We’re talking about working poor families who cannot afford other health insurance and this hits target population,” he said. “It’s a big number.”

According to 2004 federal figures, more than 17 percent of

Lawrence County’s population of 63,179 lives below the poverty level.

The budget also includes a separate provision that extends a Medicaid buy-in option to families whose children have catastrophic health conditions that make it difficult or impossible for them to get health insurance on the private market. It also expands daycare assistance for eligible families and expands Medicaid eligibility for children in the foster care program until the age 21. Myers said he did not have any figures on how many children in Lawrence County could be affected by these changes.