State vaccine program gets reprieve

Insurance companies have come forward with funding for a program that buys vaccines for all children.


A state program that buys vaccine for all children -- not just those on state-paid health insurance -- in Washington has been saved, thanks to timely new funding from health plans.

Some of the state's dollars for the Universal Vaccine Program, or UVP, were cut last year, with the remaining funding scheduled to end last Saturday. However, a public-private partnership has closed that budget gap and restored the program.

In partnership with health insurance companies, large private employers and health trusts, the state's Department of Health will be able to continue to offer routinely-recommended childhood vaccines, including polio, chicken pox, pertussis and the MMR shot -- mumps, measles and rubella.

Last year's cuts last year eliminated funding for human papillomavirus vaccine for children with private health insurance. Now the vaccine is back and all kids age 11-18 years can once again get it from the state program, along with all other vaccines.

It's win-win, explained Michele Roberts, health promotion and communication manager, for the department's child-immunization program. Many involved with the health of children had seen the writing on the wall, the coming clash of reduced state spending and the rising cost of some vaccines, she said.

Washington pays about $36 million a year to participate in the UVP, while the federal government chips in another $70-plus million, Roberts added.

Under an "innovative" public-private partnership, state funds that had been cut have been replaced with an assessment to the state from health plans, she said.

Now, some kids will be covered by federal funds and other kids will be covered with state funds. Health insurers and self-insured plans will be assessed for vaccines given to the children they cover. This commitment to "universal childhood vaccine" ensures that all kids have access to vaccines they need to protect them from disease.

Otherwise, the end of the program would have almost certainly created a roadblocks for parents and private physicians, who are responsible for 90 percent of all the childhood vaccinations given in this state, Roberts said this morning. Medical offices and parents would have had to decipher who's insurance pays what vaccines.

Additionally, doctors would need to finance liability insurance -- "Things can go wrong in handling vaccine," Roberts pointed out ¬?-- separate storage and separate supplies for those paying for vaccinations with private insurance.

One change with the new funding is that vaccinators must track vaccine given to children with private insurance, she said. The legislation that saved the vaccine program also created the Washington Vaccine Association. The association will manage payments from the health plans to the state.


More information about the Washington Vaccine Association is at Call 1-800-322-2588 for help finding a health-care provider or an immunization clinic.


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