NEW YORK: Pataki Unveils Expanded Kiddiecare Plan
Gov. George Pataki (R) yesterday "proposed vastly expanding a federally funded child health insurance program to cover hundreds of thousands more children from low-income families, offering for the first time services including vision and dental care," Newsday reports (Terrazzano, 2/11). Pataki's five- year plan would be funded by $256 million per year in federal Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) monies. The child health plan is "different from the one ... first highlighted in [Pataki's] January State of the State address." Under the new proposal, "the insurance plan would cover much more: vision, dental and hearing care, emergency room visits, substance abuse counseling, wheelchairs and other services," the AP/Albany Times Union reports. State Health Commissioner Dr. Barbara DeBuono said "[t]he Pataki plan would offer free health insurance to families of four that earn up to $29,000; a family of four that earns up to $35,600 would be eligible but would pay a monthly premium of up to $9 per child, to a maximum of $36 per family." In addition, "the plan would offer families that earn more than $35,600 a chance to buy the subsidized insurance by paying a greater premium, as much as $1,200 a year for a family of four," according to DeBuono (Thorne, 2/11).
An Important Step
"[L]obbyists for child health care have applauded" Pataki's plan (Newsday, 2/11). Children's Health Fund President Dr. Irwin Redlener said, "This is the most important step, what we were waiting for" (AP/Albany Times Union, 2/11). But Redlener's group "would like to see the income criteria expanded to families of three who make less than $40,000 a year." Elie Ward, executive director of Statewide Youth Advocacy, said the Pataki proposal is "not an affordable plan." Newsday notes that Ward's group "has been lobbying for a broader plan."
Pataki's proposal, "which appears to be embraced by the Republican-dominated Senate, faces hurdles and modifications in the Assembly." Assembly Democrats introduced a Kiddiecare plan that would raise "income eligibility for the program to 300% of the poverty level, making families whose average annual income is just shy of $40,000 a year eligible for services at lower rates." Dick Gottfried, chair of the Assembly health committee, said, "We and child-health advocates still have to do a lot of work to bring the proposal to where it should be, but at least it's at the table" (2/11).