Chipman bill to help families stay healthy and united moves forward

Posted: April 26, 2017 | Senator Chipman

A bill by Sen. Ben Chipman, D-Portland, to ensure parents undergoing rehabilitation and reunification efforts with their children are able to retain health insurance coverage through MaineCare, received a 6-5 “Ought to Pass” vote in the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee on April 25.

Current Maine law allows parents with children who are under certain income levels to qualify for health coverage through MaineCare. When the Department of Health and Human Services removes children from the home, the parents are then considered “childless adults” and lose their MaineCare coverage even if the parents are working diligently to put their families back together.

Chipman’s bill — LD 451, “An Act To Continue MaineCare Coverage for Parents during the Rehabilitation and Reunification Process” — instructs the Department of Health and Human Service to apply for a waiver from the federal government to allow the state to continue to provide MaineCare coverage to a parent who is participating in rehabilitation and reunification — the process by which children are returned to their parents custody after being placed in foster care or nonparent care. If reunification efforts are discontinued or if parental rights are terminated, MaineCare Chipman’s bill would see that coverage also be terminated. Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Vermont have successfully applied for similar waivers.

“Reunifying families has many positive outcomes,” said Sen. Chipman. “Kids who end up in the foster care system have higher teen pregnancy rates, are more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system, and are less likely to hold a job for at least three month.”

Chipman’s bill would not only help parents working to put their families back together. It would save taxpayer dollars, too. That’s because the federal government requires states to support parents engaged in reunification. The loss of MaineCare coverage leaves Maine taxpayers on the hook for those parents’ health care costs. If MaineCare coverage were maintained, the state would receive a 2-to-1 federal match for those costs. DHHS, however, claims that LD 451 would cost the state $59,000 per year, even though they found substantial savings to the state on a similar bill in 2013.

“One year DHHS says this bill would save the state a lot of money and the next year they claim the same proposal will cost money, which makes no sense,” said Sen. Chipman. “Even if the department’s math this year is correct, $59,000 a year to provide full health care for 700 low income adults is a bargain and absolutely something we should do.”

LD 451 now heads to the Senate for initial votes.