FAMIS program reaches 15th anniversary with more than 1 million youngsters covered

Jeremy Lazarus | 9/15/2016, 10:51 p.m.
More than 1.6 million low-income Virginia children have benefited from government health insurance programs during the past 15 years.

More than 1.6 million low-income Virginia children have benefited from government health insurance programs during the past 15 years.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe celebrated that milestone Wednesday with doctors and officials who have helped ensure children are provided coverage through the Family Access to Medical Insurance Security (FAMIS) program and Medicaid.

Since 2001, FAMIS has provided “more than 630,000 children in the Commonwealth with coverage,” the governor said. The program also helped enroll nearly 1 million more children in the state’s Medicaid program through FAMIS Plus.

Both programs have been of incredible importance to the lives and health of children, said Dr. Karen Rheuban, a pediatric cardiologist at the University of Virginia Hospital.

“I personally cared for eight patients in my pediatric cardiology clinic” on Tuesday, Dr. Rheuban said. “Because of Medicaid and FAMIS, not one of those families had to choose between paying the rent or buying food and getting the right care and medication for their child.”

U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner recalled the effort that it took to develop the program.

“When I ran for governor in 2001,” he said. “Virginia’s lack of participation in the children’s health insurance program was a national embarrassment.

“Only about 17 percent of our eligible kids were enrolled, and Virginia was yearly turning away almost $60 million in federal support,” he said.

“As governor, I made FAMIS one of our top priorities. We simplified the application process and broadened outreach to eligible families. Ultimately, we signed up 98 percent of eligible children, improving health outcomes and providing affordability and peace of mind for their parents,” he said.

By the end of his gubernatorial term in 2005, Sen. Warner noted that “the nonpartisan Kaiser Health Foundation honored Virginia’s FAMIS as the most dramatically improved children’s health insurance effort anywhere in the country.”

Currently, the monthly enrollment in FAMIS and FAMIS Plus is almost 600,000 children. However, there are still an estimated 75,000 Virginia children and teenagers who qualify for FAMIS or FAMIS Plus and are not enrolled, officials said.

The state is continuing its partnership with Virginia’s 1,863 public schools to try to reach and enroll all eligible children, Gov. McAuliffe said. Again this year, every school is distributing FAMIS Back-to-School fliers to students during the first week of class, he said.

“Whether you are a student, teacher, parent, grandparent or just someone who wants to help, you can share one of these fliers with a friend or relative. “The program’s success is attributed to the hard work of state and local agencies, as well as the medical community,” he said. “We need to keep up that good work to make sure our children have access to quality, affordable health care options.”

Information also is available at www.coverva.org and from the FAMIS and Cover Virginia accounts on Facebook and Twitter.