Deprive no children of medical insurance
The Legislature is considering measures to make sure all keiki have health insurance.
HAWAII'S three-decade-old requirement that companies provide health insurance to full-time employees has led to a disproportionate percentage of part-time workers whose children are left uninsured
. The Legislature should find ways to protect the health of children whose parents don't qualify for government medical coverage and cannot afford private insurance.
According to the Census Bureau several years ago, an estimated 19,548 of Hawaii's children were uninsured although they qualified for government coverage. The state Department of Health and the nonprofit Hawaii Covering Kids responded with an outreach program resulting in the enrollment of 8,449 children in government insurance programs by late 2004.
Barbara Luksch, project director of Hawaii Covering Kids, indicated recently that the state can identify which children are uninsured, and the task should be directed at providing them medical coverage. Most of the uninsured children's parents fall into the gap of being unable to afford private insurance and not qualifying for Medicaid or the state's free QUEST program.
The Hawaii Uninsured Project, a public and private effort, now estimates that 16,000 children in Hawaii are uninsured. About half began to qualify for Medicaid benefits in 2000, when the threshold income was raised to twice the federal poverty level, or the recently expanded QUEST.
Legislators are considering a bill that would initiate a three-year pilot Keiki Care Plan for the state and a mutual benefit society, such as the Hawaii Medical Service Association, to see that coverage is provided to children whose parents continue to fall through the income crack. Other bills would further narrow the gap by increasing expansion of income eligibility for QUEST. The cost would be shared by the state and a private partner.
Lawmakers should have no qualms about enacting such measures. A statewide survey taken by Ward Research showed that 86 percent of insured respondents believe that all children should have health insurance, while an additional 12 percent "somewhat agree."
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