KIDDIECARE: New York, Illinois Programs Get HHS Approval
The Clinton administration yesterday approved New York's and Illinois' programs to insure children in low-income families through the $24 billion federal Child Health Insurance Program (Kiddiecare). The New York Times reports that the announcement brings the number of states that have had their Kiddiecare programs approved to eight. All together, these states may now "provide coverage for one million uninsured children," said Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala (Pear, 4/2). The Clinton administration hopes to provide health insurance to 5 million uninsured children over the next five years through the federal Kiddiecare initiative, the New York Daily News reports.
Empire State Plan
Following HHS' approval, New York Gov. George Pataki (R) said, "We will now seek to cover every low-income child in New York who needs health insurance" (Kiely, 4/2). Under New York's plan, the state will use $256 million in federal funds this year to enroll up to 400,000 children through an existing state program called Child Health Plus, which currently serves about 170,000. According to the New York Times, families at or below 150% of the poverty level (about $25,000 annually for a family of four) will receive free coverage for their children (4/2). The Daily News reports that families earning up to 222% of the poverty level ($36,000 for a family of four) can also qualify for the program, but according to a health department spokesperson, those above the free-care threshold "will be asked to pay a premium of about $9 a month" (4/2). The Times reports that a family of four earning up to $33,230 would pay "premiums of no more than $13 a month for each child." The federal money will allow the state to pay for services not previously covered, such as "routine vision and dental care, speech and hearing services, inpatient mental health services, wheelchairs and other medical equipment," according to state health department spokesperson Frances Tarlton (4/2). According to HHS, New York was one of three states in which existing children's health coverage benefits packages were "grandfathered" into the Kiddiecare program; Florida and Pennsylvania are the other two (HHS release, 4/1).
Land Of Lincoln
Illinois will use its $123 million in Kiddiecare funds to cover about 40,000 children, the AP/Augusta Chronicle reports (4/2). The state will do this by expanding its Medicaid program, which currently insures 767,000 children (HHS release, 4/1). The Times reports that Illinois "describes this as the first step in broadening coverage and will later liberalize the eligibility criteria to cover children" in families who earn up to 200% of the federal poverty level.
A Growing List
According to the Times, 22 states have submitted Kiddiecare proposals for federal approval. Eleven of the proposals are Medicaid expansions, while six states "have devised their own programs to buy coverage in the private market and five are using a combination of the two approaches." In addition to Florida and Pennsylvania, five other states have had their Kiddiecare plans approved: Alabama, California, Colorado, Ohio and South Carolina (4/2). To read the Health Care Financing Administration's latest overview of the Kiddiecare program and descriptions of the states' plans, click here.