In response to a new state law passed earlier this year, consumer advocates, government officials and medical professionals in Ohio are taking steps to ensure that the state’s Amish children will continue to receive access to health care. All Amish children had been receiving coverage through the state health insurance program known as the Bureau for Children with Medical Handicaps (BCMH). The new law requires that families enrolling children in BCMH must first apply for Medicaid, one of several government programs that Amish families will not partake in for religious reasons. The Amish had been opting into Ohio’s BCMH because they were able subsidize the program using their own revenue from property taxes and an annual auction. The legislative change leaves an estimated 500 Amish children without health coverage, unless enough funds can be raised to cover their costs.
A committee, led by Amish father Morris Yoder, will oversee the newly-created Ohio Crippled Children’s Fund. This community charity will raise funds by soliciting donations from the state’s 25,000 Amish residents. Yoder intends to ask for $50 donations at least twice a year. “The fund will cover bills related to the children’s birth defects so that parents don’t have to struggle the rest of their lives to pay for that,” he said. Children with heart problems and inherited disorders such cystic fibrosis and hemophilia will be eligible for the program.
BCMH officials are also considering shifting $500,000 worth of Amish-raised funds into the new program. In addition, the Amish committee is negotiating with the Akron Children’s Hospital and other facilities in the hopes of receiving discounted billing rates. There are 160 Amish men and boys with hemophilia currently being treated at the Akron Children’s hemophilia treatment center. Jeffrey D. Hord, MD, director of pediatric hematology and oncology at Akron Children’s is willing to work out a plan with the Amish but is concerned about cost feasibility. “We can work out the mechanics. I think it remains to be seen how much this is going to cost this fund, and whether they will be able to keep enough funds in it to cover the expenses,” said Dr. Hord.
Source: Akron Beacon Journal, December 26, 2005