MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) – There has not been a notable decline in enrollment due to the new premiums on several state health insurance programs, the Department of Prevention, Assistance, Transition and Health Access said this week.

The idea to charge premiums for the state’s Medicaid-related health care programs emerged last year when lawmakers balked at Gov. James Douglas’ attempt to spike co-payments and deductibles for those services.

Advocates of the premium program say it’s fairer and more fiscally prudent than the old system that had been in place for almost 10 years.

In March, almost 98 percent of premium-paying participants remained in Dr. Dynasaur, Vermont’s health insurance program for children, the department said in a report. The program had 9,808 children whose parents had to pay some premiums, compared with 10,101 last June, the month before the premiums increased.

Last month 96.4 percent of premium-paying participants remained in the Vermont Health Access Program, or VHAP.

The health insurance program for adults had 16,294 premium-paying participants, compared with 16,905 in December, the month before premiums increased.

In both of those programs, people from families with incomes of between 185 percent and 300 percent of the federal poverty rate had to pay premiums.

VHAP’s prescription drug program, which imposed a premium for the first time in January, saw a slightly bigger decline. Last month, 93 percent of all participants remained in the program: 13,591 participants, compared with 14,610 participants in January.

PATH Commissioner John Michael Hall said a concerted educational effort by department employees helped keep retention levels high.

“We are doing extensive outreach and these are programs that most participants feel are worth spending money on,” he said.

Hall’s office gathered the data and is sending the report to lawmakers, some of whom were concerned that the new or higher premiums might cause a greater increase in low-income people dropping off the rolls of the health insurance programs.

AP-ES-04-09-04 1655EDT


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