Napolitano seeks to expand health care coverage for kids - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Napolitano seeks to expand health care coverage for kids

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Posted: Thursday, May 31, 2007 2:30 am | Updated: 7:36 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Gov. Janet Napolitano will ask lawmakers for an even more expansive government health care program next year than the one they rejected this year.

The governor told Capitol Media Services she recognizes that the funding she sought for the KidsCare plan isn’t in the budget passed by House Republicans or even in the bipartisan Senate plan. Her proposal would have covered children in families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level — more than $60,000 a year for a family of four. Current law sets the cutoff at twice the poverty level.

But Napolitano said she already is putting together plans for next year to help cover more uninsured children, as well as adults.

Her comments came as a national group urged Congress to approve continued funding for the expanded KidsCare program and pushed states to join in.

Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said if Arizona balks, the $1.17 billion the state could get in federal tax dollars during the next five years will go elsewhere.

Pollack, whose organization pushes for affordable health care, acknowledged states have to put up close to $1 for every $3 in federal aid. Assuming every child enrolls, those figures would translate to more than $350 million in state funds.

Napolitano sought just $2.2 million for half of the coming budget year. But her staffers acknowledged that would grow as word of the expanded program got out and more people joined.

“The Legislature had some problems with that,’’ Napolitano conceded. But the governor said this year’s fight left an impression — and a resolve to seek even more next year.

The governor did not provide any specifics to expand KidsCare. But House Majority Leader Tom Boone, R-Peoria, said any plan will meet with resistance in the Republican-led Legislature.

Boone said the solution to having perhaps 1 million uninsured Arizonans is less government involvement.

To cut costs, Republicans want to partially repeal laws that require all health insurance sold in Arizona to cover a list of ailments and treatments. Among those they want eliminated are chiropractic care, contraceptives and mental health coverage.

Such a plan gained House approval earlier this year, but was killed by the Senate Health Committee.

The state could expand subsidized coverage for adults through “KidsCare Parents,’’ which insures parents of children who qualify for KidsCare. Eligibility is limited to twice the federal poverty level, with families paying premiums of up to 5 percent of their income.

The state could increase eligibility to three times the poverty level — if it provided the necessary match.

Pollack said just because someone earns more than $40,000 — or as much as $60,000 — doesn’t mean insurance is affordable. He said family health coverage can cost $12,000 a year.

He said states also are entitled to charge premiums linked to a family income.

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