VIRGINIA: Gilmore Unveils ‘Stand-Alone’ Kiddiecare Plan
Beset by bipartisan criticism, state officials yesterday defended Gov. Jim Gilmore's (R) Kiddiecare program in a briefing to a legislative panel, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. The program would use $99 million in state and federal funds to bring insurance to approximately 84,000 low-income children, "more than doubl[ing] from 33,000" the number of children currently eligible, according to state Secretary of Health and Human Resources Claude Allen (Schapiro, 6/16). The program would function "like a private medical insurance plan covering doctors' visits medical tests, prenatal care, prescription drugs, vision hearing care" and substance abuse treatment. It "could be implemented in as few as 90 days," although it could "take up to five years to enroll all children targeted by the program" (Terrell, AP/Fairfax Journal, 6/16).
Defying Assembly Mandates
The Times-Dispatch reports that in formulating his plan, Gilmore spurned "the 1998 General Assembly's mandate that the program be based on Medicaid." Gilmore's "stand-alone initiative" differs from a Medicaid expansion in that it is "technically not considered an entitlement program," and therefore "Virginians with access to other health coverage" -- notably low-income state employees -- "are not eligible." At yesterday's hearing, legislators "seemed more interested in Gilmore's apparent snub of a budget provision requiring a Medicaid-based plan than the fact that his program would extend to uninsured children services available under Medicaid." State Sen. Joseph Gartlan Jr. (D) said Gilmore had "avoided, circumvented [and] ignored" the legislative mandate (6/16). But Gilmore defended his actions by saying a Medicaid-based measure would have been "the largest expansion of welfare benefits in Virginia history" (AP/Fairfax Journal, 6/16). Gilmore administration officials also "brought out an opinion supporting its action by Attorney General Mark L. Earley" (Times-Dispatch, 6/16).