State Children’s Insurance Program Questioned
Illinois lawmakers at a legislative hearing on Tuesday questioned whether Gov. Rod Blagojevich's (D) new health insurance program for children will be ready for its July 1 launch, the Chicago Tribune reports (Pearson/Chase, Chicago Tribune, 6/14).
Under the All Kids program, health care coverage will be extended to all uninsured children in the state. It will allow parents of uninsured Illinois children to pay a monthly income-based premium for health insurance that in most cases will cost less than private health coverage.
Blagojevich has proposed shifting 1.6 million beneficiaries enrolled in KidCare, FamilyCare and traditional Medicaid to a managed care system for an estimated savings of $56 million in the first year to fund All Kids. By the fifth year, Blagojevich said that he expects enrollment of 204,000 children in All Kids at an annual cost of $96 million, compared with estimated savings of $93 million from the shift to a managed care system in other state health insurance programs (California Healthline, 11/16/05).
The state needs federal approval to shift Medicaid beneficiaries into managed care programs.
Kathleen Strand, spokesperson for the state Department of Healthcare and Family Services, said the state has been in "constant communication" with federal officials about the issue. She added that the state has until Oct. 1 to have the application approved.
However, an unidentified federal official familiar with Blagojevich's plan said it is a "gross exaggeration" to claim that state officials have had close contact with the federal government. "To the best of our knowledge, no discussions that could be called substantive have occurred," the official said.
In addition, the state does not have a tally of how many children have already registered.
Critics maintain that "more attention was paid to the public relations aspect of the program than to designing a public policy initiative," according to the Tribune. State records show that the state has signed promotional contracts for All Kids worth more than $3.2 million (Chicago Tribune, 6/14).
In addition, some lawmakers are concerned that the state will not be able to afford the program, according to the AP/Peoria Journal Star (Keith, AP/Peoria Journal Star, 6/13).
However, Strand said, "We remain confident that children who are part of this program will be receiving services on July 1" (Chicago Tribune, 6/14).