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Insurance Plan Seeks to Cover Children

Illinois would offer health benefits to all uninsured youths under the governor's proposal.

October 07, 2005|From Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced a medical plan Thursday that would make Illinois the first state to offer health benefits to all uninsured children.

The plan, which has the endorsement of Democratic legislative leaders, would target children in families that earn too little for private coverage but too much to qualify for existing state-funded programs.

The Democratic governor would pay for the "All Kids" program by revamping state health programs to cut expenses.

Parents would be able to get their children's insurance from the state, with premiums and co-payments that would be much lower than private insurance policies.

Blagojevich announced the plan at a restaurant in Chicago, surrounded by eligible families. Children who could be covered by the proposal "are kids of parents who serve you coffee in the morning," he said.

Eligible parents, he said, could be the growing number of people who work "two or three part-time jobs so they can make ends meet, but because of their part-time jobs they can't get health insurance for themselves or their children."

Initially, the program would extend health benefits to more than 125,000 children who aren't eligible for the state's KidCare insurance program. Officials hope the program's publicity also would reach families of an additional 125,000 kids who qualify for KidCare but are not signed up.

The state would reduce costly emergency room visits by hiring primary-care physicians to work with patients on maintaining good health, Blagojevich said. The changes would not apply to elderly or blind clients.

Republicans have pushed to use managed care for the state's government-supported Medicaid programs for several years.

Republican Rep. Patricia Bellock, who has unsuccessfully sponsored legislation to set up test programs for the idea, is pleased Blagojevich is moving in that direction but fears the state is being too generous. Offering insurance to people who make too much to qualify for Medicaid invites fraud, she said.

With support from Senate President Emil Jones Jr. and House Speaker Michael Madigan, the plan could pass later this month and take effect July 1.

KidCare and FamilyCare, a similar program for parents, enroll more than 1.6 million people in Illinois, a number that Blagojevich has increased by more than 340,000, according to aides.

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