Sunday, July 15, 2007

Low Cost Health Insurance


Some would argue that there is a national healthcare crisis here in the United States and low cost health insurance should be available to all citizens. And while that last statement is certainly debatable, we're going to address the issue of low cost health insurance in this article.

We're going to do that by first highlighting some of the recent health care statistics, including health insurance coverage. And for those that are looking for some low cost options, we'll help you figure out if you qualify for low cost or no cost health insurance and tell you where you can go to find out more information.

Health Insurance Coverage

Each year government agencies such as the Census Bureau and the US Department of Health and Human Services conduct surveys aimed at determining the numbers of people in the United States covered by health insurance plans. The latest statistics from those agencies tell us:

  • The total number of individuals in the United States with health insurance coverage increased from 245.9 million in 2004 to 247.3 million in 2005.

  • There are approximately 46.6 million people in the US without health insurance coverage - which is up from 45.3 million people in 2004. On a percentage basis, this represents an increase from 15.6% to 15.9% of the population.

  • Most individuals in the US (59.5%) are covered by employer health insurance plans.

  • The number of people covered by government sponsored health insurance programs increased to 80.2 million people - which is 27.3% of the population.

  • Nearly 20% of all children living in poverty do not have health insurance.

That last statistic is particularly disturbing because there are programs aimed at delivering low cost or no cost health insurance to children.

State Children's Health Insurance Program

The State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, is a program jointly sponsored by the federal and state governments to offer and expand low cost and no cost health care coverage to over 5 million children throughout the nation.

The program provides for over $24 billion in federal funding as well as state matching funds. Each state has the flexibility to establish their criteria for eligible uninsured children. Alternatively, they can also choose to use this money to expand their existing Medicaid programs, or design a specific program aimed at child health care programs.

Typical medical services offered under this program include:

  • Doctor visits (including well care services such as immunizations)

  • Prescription Drugs / Medicines

  • Hospitalizations / Hospital Care

Perhaps the most popular program run today under SCHIP is the Insure Kids Now initiative.

Qualifying for Health Insurance Under Insure Kids Now

You can qualify for low cost health insurance for your children if they are age 18 years and younger and you meet certain eligibility rules. For example, a family of four that earns $34,100 or less qualifies for the program.

These programs are run by all 50 states and are founded on legislation passed in 1997. Eligibility is based on income levels and the size of your family. If Medicaid already covers the child, then they already have access to low cost or no cost health insurance and are not eligible for this program.

Each state has its own program and you can follow this link to find your states program. These low cost health insurance programs are funded through taxes collected at the both the federal and state level. Generally, the insurance covers doctor visits, prescriptions and hospital stays. Some states will also cover the cost of dental care, eye examinations and specialized medical equipment your child might need.

Applying for Low Cost Health Insurance

The low cost health insurance application process is designed to be very simple and very short. Most states offer the choice between completing the application through the mail and even applying over the telephone. Parents are not required to give their Social Security number when applying for insurance but it is likely that you will need to give the Social Security number of the children you wish to insure.

Additional information you are likely to need for the health insurance application includes proof of your family's income, any childcare costs you currently pay, and some information concerning the last time the child was covered by any health insurance.

Congress recognized that low cost and no cost health insurance is important for many reasons. Immunizations can help prevent disease. You'll be able to bring your child to a doctor when they are sick and not have to worry about paying for the service. Studies confirm that children with health insurance live more healthy lives, miss school less often and therefore perform better in school.

Providing low cost health insurance to children is an important step in securing America's future. Visit your state's website, look into their program and find out if you're eligible.

Low Cost Health Insurance through Medicaid

If you're a US national, citizen or permanent resident, you may qualify for low cost health care insurance under the Medicaid program. Assistance is generally offered to individuals and families with income levels at or near the poverty level. Each state is responsible for establishing their guidelines to receive Medicaid benefits.

Health Care Services through Medicaid

In order for state run programs to be eligible to receive federal matching funds, there are certain basic medical / health care services that must be offered to needy populations. The health care help available through this program must include service such as:

  • Inpatient and outpatient hospital services

  • Payment of physician services

  • Surgical and medical dental services

  • Nursing facility (NF) services for individuals aged 21 or older

  • Home health care for persons that are eligible for nursing facility services

  • Family planning services and supplies

  • Nurse / midwife services

  • Laboratory services and X-rays

  • Pediatric and those services provided by a family nurse practitioner

  • Federally-qualified health center services and ambulatory services that are otherwise covered under a state plan

  • Rural health clinic services and other ambulatory services that are otherwise covered under a state plan

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