Illinois Governor Promotes All Kids Program; State Hospital Association Endorses Proposal
The Illinois Hospital Association on Thursday officially endorsed Gov. Rod Blagojevich's (D) children's health insurance proposal, All Kids, saying many of the questions that initially caused it to withhold its endorsement have been answered, the AP/Chicago Tribune reports (Kelly Lannan, AP/Chicago Tribune, 10/20).
Under the proposed All Kids plan, which must be passed by the state legislature, parents of uninsured children would pay a monthly income-based premium that in most cases would cost less than private insurance. Copayments would apply for doctor's visits, hospital stays and prescription drug costs. No copayments would be charged for preventive care, such as immunizations and regular checkups. The plan would have no deductible, and out-of-pocket expenses would not surpass a maximum amount.
To be eligible, children would have to have been uninsured for six months prior to the initial enrollment period. The uninsured period later would be increased to 12 months. Blagojevich said he aims to enroll 50,000 children in the first year of the program at a cost of $45 million.
To fund the program, he has proposed shifting 1.6 million beneficiaries enrolled in KidCare, FamilyCare and traditional Medicaid to a managed-care system for an expected savings of $56 million during the first year. By the fifth year, Blagojevich said he anticipates enrollment of 204,000 children at an annual cost of $96 million, in comparison with savings of $93 million from the shift to a managed-care system in other state health care programs. More than 200 other organizations across Illinois have endorsed the proposal (California Healthline, 10/14).
Ken Robbins, president of IHA -- which represents about 200 hospitals and health systems throughout the state -- said the group wanted a better understanding of how the system would work to provide medically appropriate treatments and to ensure that insurance coverage standards are maintained. He said, "We're satisfied with the fact that they know what issues those are and they're committed to working toward solutions."
Robbins added that while the state currently is behind in its Medicaid payments to providers, expanding coverage in this instance is "worth taking the risk." He added, "Right now, you have a lot of children who have no access to primary care. If this program works, and I think it will, that issue is going to be addressed."
The Illinois State Medical Society is reviewing the program and has not decided whether to endorse it, but officials say they will determine the group's position soon (AP/Chicago Tribune, 10/20).
Blagojevich's office is promoting All Kids with a "massive public relations" effort, using state agencies to gain support and boost attendance at a Sunday rally, the Tribune reports.
Blagojevich is promoting the program through numerous public appearances and has requested that directors of state agencies advocate support for it. His office has also sent out pre-written letters commending the program to organizations, which are being asked to put the memo on their own letterhead and sent it back to reflect their endorsement.
Blagojevich spokesperson Abby Ottenhoff said, "It would be great to have everyone on board. Lack of health insurance doesn't impact just one political party. Our efforts are broad, and we're hoping to reach every decision-maker about the program" (Pearson/Casillas, Chicago Tribune, 10/21).
"The problem of uninsured children is real and onerous," a Tribune editorial says, continuing that while the proposal is an "intriguing product," Blagojevich "has expended far more effort in trying to make a quick sell than in explaining" how it works.
The editorial concludes, "If he supplants his campaign-style rhetoric with hard facts and figures about the enormous financial impact of this plan, he might make the sale in good time. But he hasn't done that yet" (Chicago Tribune, 10/21).