An estimated 9,000 additional uninsured Louisiana children will be eligible to sign up for state health care benefits over the next year through an expansion of the Louisiana Children’s Health Insurance Program (LaCHIP).

This expansion, which raises the income limits to qualify for LaCHIP, is the result of recent legislative action to extend health care coverage to more working families. Act 407 – signed into law by Gov. Kathleen Blanco on July 11 – increases the qualifying income limits from 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level to 300 percent.

The income level change means a family of four earning a monthly income of $5,163 ($61,950 annual income) can purchase health coverage for uninsured children through LaCHIP.  This is compared to previous levels where that same family’s monthly income could not exceed $3,442 ($41,304 yearly) to be eligible for the program.

According to Dr. Fred Cerise, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, families who earn these higher incomes will pay a premium, based on a sliding fee schedule, for LaCHIP coverage.

“This program is designed to assist some middle income families by making health care coverage more affordable,” he said. “This program is intended only for families with children who today are uninsured. We have built in safeguards to discourage people with insurance from dropping their current coverage simply to enroll in LaCHIP.”

In addition, the bill provides funding for outreach and marketing to locate and enroll currently eligible children. There are estimates that nearly 68,000 Louisiana children live in families earning less than 200 percent of the poverty level who qualify for LaCHIP but have not enrolled.

LaCHIP benefits include doctor visits, hospital care, shots and prescriptions, and much more. Louisiana citizens can enroll in LaCHIP at no cost if they earn less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level. The program has been credited as the key reason Louisiana has been able to reduce the percentage of uninsured children in low income households from 31.6 percent to 12.5 percent.

The Department of Health and Hospitals, LaCHIP’s administering authority, is currently defining rules and regulations for the expanded program with plans for implementation in the fall. For more information about LaCHIP and the program’s expansion, visit or call 1-877-2LaCHIP (252-2447).