Illinois Governor To Propose Program To Provide Health Coverage for All State Children
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) on Thursday is expected to propose a plan to provide subsidized health insurance for 253,000 uninsured children in the state, many of whom are in families with incomes too high to qualify for government programs but too low to afford private health coverage, the Washington Post reports (Slevin, Washington Post, 10/6).
Under the All Kids plan, parents 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 (Massingale, Copley/Peoria Journal Star, 10/6). No copayments would be charged for preventive care, such as immunizations and regular checkups (Fusco/Rackl, Chicago Sun-Times, 10/6). The plan would have no deductible, and out-of-pocket expenses would not surpass a maximum amount.
Under the proposal, a family of four earning between $40,000 and $59,999 annually would pay a $40 monthly premium per child, with a maximum of $80 for two or more children. Doctor's visits would cost $10; emergency room visits, $30; prescription drugs, 5% of the cost; inpatient hospital stays, $100; and outpatient hospital services, 5% of the cost. Out-of-pocket expenses for such a family would be limited to $500 per year (Copley/Peoria Journal Star, 10/6).
To be eligible, children would have to have been uninsured for six months prior to the initial enrollment period. The uninsured period later will be increased to 12 months (Chicago Sun-Times, 10/6).
State officials say All Kids will extend health benefits to 125,000 children in the state who are ineligible for KidCare, the state's SCHIP program. An additional 125,000 children are eligible for KidCare but are not signed up for the program, and officials hope the publicity about the All Kids benefit will help them identify eligible families (O'Conner, Associated Press, 10/6). About 70% of uninsured Illinois children are in families earning between $40,000 and $80,000 per year.
Blagojevich said he aims to enroll 50,000 children in the first year of the program at a cost of $45 million (Washington Post, 10/6).
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 (Associated Press, 10/6). All Kids would take effect July 1, 2006, if it is approved by state legislators.
According to Copley/Star Journal, the support of state House Speaker Michael Madigan (D) and state Senate President Emil Jones (D) "practically assures passage during the fall veto session." Madigan spokesperson Steve Brown said any criticism of the plan "would look silly. This is close to the final step in the process." Federal approval would be needed to make changes to the Medicaid program (Copley/Peoria Star Journal, 10/6).
Blagojevich said children who would be eligible for the program currently "can't see a doctor when they need to, can't get the medicine they need, can't get the care they need. And when they do get medical care, it's often in the emergency room, after a small problem has grown into a big problem" (Associated Press, 10/6). He added that fiscally, the state is "now ... within reach of providing access to affordable health care for every child."
David Rousseau, a senior policy analyst for the Kaiser Family Foundation, said, "To my knowledge, this would be the first statewide program to offer affordable health coverage to all children within a state" (Chicago Sun-Times, 10/6).
However, state Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson (R) called the plan a "desperation move" by Blagojevich, noting that the state owes $1 billion in back-logged bills to health care providers (Aguilar, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 10/5).