Ohio Could Have To Return $15.5 Million In Insurance Money

CLEVELAND (AP) - Ohio's Healthy Start provides health care coverage to poor children, registering 180,000 children in the last three years. Soon it may have to return up to $15.5 million to the federal government.

In a report issued last week, the Federation for Community Planning in Cleveland said Ohio forfeited the money for failing to spend its 1999 State Children's Health Insurance Program allotment.

Under a special waiver that Ohio officials now plan to request, states can use the money to insure low-income parents, too.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services projects that when all of the so-called SCHIP money is accounted for, Ohio will have a balance of $26.7 million. It will be allowed to keep $11.2 million. The other $15.5 million will be shared by the 13 states that have spent their 1999 allotments.

Ohio Medicaid Director Barbara Edwards estimated that the state will have to return $9.5 million, not $15.5 million. The waiver Ohio will request would apply to some 30,000 parents now insured through Healthy Families, she said.

Edwards told The Plain Dealer that officials did not request a waiver sooner because they were focused on enrolling people in Healthy Start and Healthy Families and trying to start a program to provide treatment for uninsured working women who have breast or cervical cancer.

Mark Real, director of the Children's Defense Fund-Ohio, said he was disappointed that Ohio was returning the money. However, he said the state was doing a good job overall of providing health insurance to low-income families.

"The state and the counties deserve credit for progress," he said. "We're not pointing fingers; we're saying, 'Let's continue the progress."'

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)