Just months after launching universal child health care Hawaii is shutting down the program. The reason? Budget cuts have eliminated the funding that the program requires.
Families that dropped their private coverage for the program will be eligible for the subsidized plan.
“People who were already able to afford health care began to stop paying for it so they could get it for free,” said Dr. Kenny Fink, the administrator for Med-QUEST at the Department of Human Services. “I don’t believe that was the intent of the program.”
There are 2,000 children who would no longer have health coverage as of November 1 had Hawaii Medical Service Association, the private partner, not decided to extend the coverage until the end of the year.
“We’re very disappointed in the state’s decision, and it came as a complete surprise to us,” said Jennifer Diesman, a spokeswoman for HMSA, the state’s largest health care provider. “We believe the program is working, and given Hawaii’s economic uncertainty, we don’t think now is the time to cut all funding for this kind of program.”
The program was approved by state lawmakers in 2007 to ensure each child would have basic medical care. It was aimed at children from birth to the age of 18 whose parents didn’t have health insurance. The program cost the state about $50,000 a month or a mere $25.50 per child.
The universal health care program cost the families only $7 per office visit. Many of those no longer with insurance are not eligible for Medicaid.
These children also could sign up for the HMSA Children’s Plan, which costs about $55 a month.
“Most of them won’t be eligible for Medicaid, and that’s why they were enrolled in Keiki Care,” Diesman said. “It’s the gap group that we’re trying to ensure has coverage.”