25,000 AL children to be added to Medicaid rolls

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Approximately 25,000 Alabama children currently covered by ALLKids and CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program, will have to be moved to be covered by Medicaid. The requirement comes as a part of the federal healthcare law.

The Affordable Care Act requires that any children in a family with an income that is less than 133% of the federal poverty level and covered by the other programs are required to be covered by Medicaid. An example is a family a four with an annual household income that's less than $31,000.

"The state has no say in this" said Dr. Don Williamson, Alabama's Public Health Officer who's served as the Interim Commissioner since February 2012. "This is a federal issue and we're facilitating it."

The change will take effect January 1, 2014 and new insurance cards will be sent to those children who are impacted by the change.

The Alabama Medicaid Agency and the Alabama Department of Public Health have begun to notify parents and legal guardians that the plans are changing.

In the letter being sent out to those families, it's made clear that there will be no changes or gaps in health insurance coverage, and added that the change will mean the parents will have reduced co-pays and will not have to pay premiums.

"That's the good news" Williamson added.

The change will not negatively impact the state of Alabama or any of its federally subsidized health insurance plans, said Williamson.

"The reality is there's not going to be much difference. Medicaid and ALL-Kids are pretty comparable in terms of cost of children. Children are relatively low cost patients" he said.

Some of the children previously covered by ALL-Kids and CHIP will have to find new doctors. Those programs used the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama's provider network. Now, those children along with their parents, may need to find new doctors that take Medicaid.

Williamson said, "Some physicians that take Blue Cross may not take Medicaid and so these children will have to move from the Blue Cross provider network to the Medicaid provider network."

ALL-Kids provides health insurance to more than 85,000 children. Medicaid officials did not have an estimate as to how many children will have to find new physicians.

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