BALTIMORE – In the three months since it was launched, a state program bringing health care to needy children and pregnant women has exceeded expectations.
The Maryland Children’s Health Program has enrolled 20,497 women and children since July 1, a spokesman for the initiative told the state’s Medicaid Advisory Committee Thursday.
“The response has been a little overwhelming, really,” said Ned Wollman, the program’s assistant director of eligibility. “We’ve had to add two temporary staffers and three new phone lines.”
The program puts children of families earning up to twice the federal poverty line – up to $32,900 for a family of four – into a managed health care program until they’re 19.
Pregnant women are also included to make sure their newborns receive proper care. They could earn up to $16,100 and be eligible.
Both get insurance covering doctors’ visits, prescriptions and dental care.
“We don’t want people to choose between health care for their children or putting food on the table,” said Joseph M. Millstone, the director of the state’s Medical Care Policy Administration, which oversees the effort.
The state believes 47,600 women and children across Maryland qualify for the program, expected to cost $76 million the first year. Supporters hope to enroll at least 47,000 by next July.
The program is basically an expanded version of the state’s old Medicaid system and is similar to health plans in other states, Wollman said. “What we’ve done [differently] is get up and running pretty quickly,” he said.
Federal Medicaid and federal matching money supports most of the program. Maryland chipped in another $29 million this year from its general fund, Wollman said.
While the program covers poor women and children across the state, almost half the participants are from the state’s urban areas.
Baltimore City had 2,933 children and pregnant women enrolled, while Montgomery County had 2,898, Prince George’s had 2,024 and Baltimore County had 1,877. A larger initiative, HealthChoice, gives other working-poor men and women health benefits. -30-