CHARLESTON (AP) - A waiting period for enrollment in West Virginia's Children's Health Insurance Program has been eliminated.
The Children's Health Insurance Agency board voted Wednesday to eliminate the 90-day waiting period after enrollment in the program for West Virginia children who are uninsured. The changes are effective Oct. 1.
The waiting period previously was aimed at preventing so-called crowd out, or giving people incentive to move from a private insurance plan to CHIP coverage.
The change comes as the state addresses President Barack Obama's health care overhaul that's expected to significantly reduce the number of uninsured people in West Virginia. In May, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced an extension of Medicaid coverage.
Currently, about 183,000 West Virginian residents are enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP. An actuarial report commissioned by the state Insurance Commissioner's office shows that number is expected to grow to about 277,000 by 2016.
CHIP covers about 25,000 state residents ages 18 and under.
CHIP Director Sharon Carte said that as Medicaid coverage expands, many children under the coverage will move to Medicaid. And a lesser number of children could move from Medicaid to CHIP due to changes in income rules for Medicaid.
Citing the actuarial report, Carte said it's possible that CHIP enrollment could drop to about 17,000.
"We'll just have to see how it all plays out," Carte said. "A lot will depend on how many families enter the (Affordable Care Act) exchange in the first year. It could take a while for the word to get out, or we could have a whole lot coming in."
Starting in October, the exchange will allow residents to compare various coverages and program costs and fill out applications.
At a previous meeting, the CHIP board tabled action on the waiting period in order to obtain comment from the insurance industry.
Carte said the board received a letter from Highmark West Virginia CEO Fred Early, which noted the waiting period's elimination would make families' movement among CHIP, Medicaid and private insurance coverage a smoother process.