The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (DHW), which administers the Medicaid program in the state, is seeing additional dollars coming into its office from billing of parents for in-home services provided to children who, without the extra care, would be forced to be institutionalized because of their disabilities. In June, the department reported having billed 188 families in May more than $25,000 for services, while receiving only $8,730 from 88 families. Friday, Emily Simnitt, public information officer for DHW, said that the department actually billed 282 families and received $13,454 in payments. Simnitt said that the total amount billed in May was $39,418.
In 2009, the Idaho Legislature ordered the department to find ways to save money and billing for children's Medicaid services is one of the ways to do that, according to DHW. There are about 2,150 children who receive services from DHW through the program, formally known as the Katie Beckett Program. The program accounts for $37 million annually. DHW officials told lawmakers in early 2010 that billing parents a small co-pay based on their income level could generate as much as $200,000 in savings each year.
Tom Shanahan, spokesman for the department, said that not every family receiving services would be newly-billed at once, but rather that the department would spread the new billing out and assess between 180 and 200 families each month, meaning that by April of 2011, all families in the program will have received a monthly bill. The department designed the fee structure as a progressive, sliding-scale type, meaning that low income families are not billed by DHW, but those families making more than 150 percent of the federal poverty level are and the amount they are asked to pay increases according to income levels.
For example, a family of four, making $2,750 a month, or 150 percent of poverty level, does not have to contribute to the program. A family of four making $10,000 a month, however, is asked to pay $300 a month. The cap for required payments from parents is set at 5 percent of family income. High-income families who pay into an insurance policy for their disabled children receive a 25 percent discount on the payment required by Medicaid.
Only 34 percent of the amount billed in May, $39,418, was returned in payments. To hit the $200,000-a-year goal that DHW officials set, the department needs to take in a little more $16,000 each month. Shanahan thinks the department will surpass the mark. Simnitt told IdahoReporter.com that the department sent out 385 invoices worth more than $53,934 in June. DHW won't officially know how many parents sent in payments for June until August.