The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) approves the state of Michigan’s request to expand Medicaid coverage and services to Flint residents impacted by drinking water from the municipal water system that was tainted with high levels of lead.
The expansion is in recognition of the public health crisis in Flint, and Health and Human Services Dept. officials said it was a top priority to ensure that all children and pregnant women exposed to lead in their water have access to the services they need. Approximately 15,000 additional children and pregnant women will be eligible for Medicaid coverage and 30,000 current Medicaid beneficiaries in the area will be eligible for expanded services under this new waiver agreement.
“Expanding Medicaid coverage to tens of thousands of expectant mothers and youth means the most vulnerable citizens served by the Flint water supply can now be connected to a wide range of needed health and developmental services, including lead-blood level monitoring and behavioral health services,” said HHS Secy. Sylvia. Burwell.
Michigan will expand Medicaid coverage to children up to age 21 and pregnant women who were served by the Flint water and who have incomes up to 400% of the federal poverty level (FPL). Michigan will also set up a state program allowing pregnant women and children up to age 21 who were served by the Flint water system and individuals with incomes above 400% of FPL to purchase unsubsidized coverage. The comprehensive health and developmental coverage includes lead-blood level monitoring and behavioral health services, among other services.
Individuals receiving Medicaid coverage will receive full state plan benefits, primarily delivered using the state’s existing managed care system and will not be subject to cost sharing or premiums. The agreement will also enable the state to provide targeted case management services designed to support those exposed to lead through the water system. Targeted case management services will include assistance to help impacted residents gain access to needed medical, social, educational and other services. Eligibility for coverage starts immediately and services will be implemented soon, Burwell said.
Five Year Effort
The project will last for five years. HHS is continuing to work with the state on other initiatives to remove lead hazards in homes that are outside the scope of this demonstration.
Additional federal funds are to help the city analyze the water supply and control the corrosion of pipes; distribute bottled water, filters and replacement cartridges; connect residents with blood-lead level screenings and follow-up care; help families on food stamps purchase infant formula that doesn’t need to be mixed with water.
“Connecting children to primary care providers who can follow their health as they grow and develop is a critical component of this response and recovery effort,” said Nicole Lurie, HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response, who is leading the federal response and recovery effort.
The expanded benefits available through this Medicaid waiver will give parents in Flint access to this type of care and support that may be needed to help their children overcome possible effects of high lead exposure, Lurie said.
“The ultimate goal is for children to thrive.” Lurie said.
Further, HHS’s office of Head Start is xpanding Head Start and Early Head Start services to help children and families exposed to lead. The expansion was made possible through one-time emergency funds of $3.6 million (http://tinyurl.com/z3twba6).
The funding will be used to expand services by: opening three additional classrooms serving beginning this month through June 2017 for children in most affected areas; lengthening the current school year by three weeks, bringing the total duration to 36 weeks and providing Head Start comprehensive services to preschoolers enrolled in the school’s special education program.