Maryland Legislation To Promote SCHIP Enrollment
TheMaryland House on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to legislation that wouldcreate a program to encourage eligible parents to enroll their children in the Maryland Children's Health Program, the state's version of SCHIP, the WashingtonPostreports. About 90,000 uninsured children in the state are eligible but notenrolled in the program.
Under the Kids First Act (HB 1391), the state comptroller's office this fallwould mail notices with state income tax forms informing families with incomesup to 300% of the federal poverty level that their children are eligible forMCHP. The next year, the tax forms would contain a box asking parents to designatewhether their children are insured or whether they were uninsured for 63 ormore days during the preceding year. Qualifying families then would receive anenrollment application and information about the program in the mail.
A provision was removed from the bill that would have disqualified parents fromclaiming a child deduction on their state income taxes if they did noteventually enroll their children in the program. Health advocates praised themandate, but some lawmakers expressed concern that the loss of tax deductionswould cause undue harm to families who do not enroll children because oflanguage obstacles or other issues. If more than 3% of children in the stateremain uninsured by 2010, state health officials will look into a program thatdisqualifies parents for the child exemption, according to the measure. Thebill also calls for a study of how to make health insurance more affordable forchildren whose parents' incomes are too high to qualify for state programs butnot enough to afford private coverage.
The bill is expected to achieve final House approval this week and move to thestate Senate, where it must be approved before the General Assembly's scheduledadjournment next month (Rein, Washington Post, 3/26).
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