Sen. committee studies drop in Dr. Dynasaur enrollment

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(Host) The Senate Health and Welfare Committee is trying to determine how many children have been removed from the state’s Dr. Dynasaur program because of the implementation of a new payment system for the program. Committee Chairman Jim Leddy says the impact of these cuts goes far beyond health care issues.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The Legislature last session enacted some sweeping changes to many of the state’s Medicaid health care programs. The old system of co-payments and deductibles was replaced by a premium-based system. It operates much like a private health insurance policy; participants pay a monthly fee for their coverage.

At the time that the new system was put into place, critics warned that thousands of people would lose coverage because they would unable to afford the new premiums. There are some initial reports that as many as 800 children have been dropped from the Dr. Dynasaur program because their parents have failed to pay their monthly premiums. Other reports indicate that the number could be lower.

Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chair Jim Leddy says it’s critical to find just how extensive this problem is:

(Leddy) “The last thing we want – or need, frankly – is to have more people without insurance, especially those that are at the lower end of the economic ladder. And the other part is, the second last thing we don’t need is to have those who provide services to have no means of being compensated because they’re covering more people without insurance. So we have really two very serious issues here that, at least from my perspective, I’m not sure exactly what’s going on.”

(Kinzel) Leddy says removing a child from the Dr. Dynasaur program has consequences far beyond health care coverage because the child’s eligibility for Medicaid provides federal funding for many school-based programs, such as special education and counseling services:

(Leddy) “If a youngster was on Medicaid and receiving services through the school that were being paid for 60 percent, paid for by the federal government; if that youngster no longer is eligible for that health insurance program, they are still receiving the service through their school. And therefore the 60 percent payment is gone, which means that the local school district and/or the Department of Education is liable for every penny of that expense and that could well be a substantial amount of money.”

(Kinzel) The Douglas administration maintains that the problem is not as bad as some initial reports indicate. They hope to provide the committee with some updated information in the next few weeks.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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