Keiki insurance bill shouldn’t be delayed
The sponsor of health insurance for poor children ineligible for existing programs says flaws in last year's bill have been eliminated.
LAST year's Legislature approved a bill aimed at assuring free health insurance for children whose parents cannot afford private insurance and don't qualify for state or federal programs. Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed the flawed measure, and legislators need assurance that the now-amended bill will avoid further delays in implementing this important program.
Most parents of uninsured children cannot afford health insurance but their incomes are too high for them to qualify for Medicaid or QUEST, the state's health-insurance program for the poor. The legislation would initiate a three-year pilot Keiki Care Plan for children whose parents fall through the income crack.
Last year's bill would have allowed parents whose income exceeds the Medicaid threshold to drop out of the QUEST program, where they pay a low rate, in order to qualify for the free Keiki Care Plan. Parents also would have been permitted to drop out of the Hawaii Medical Service Association's low-rate children health plan to qualify for the free coverage.
In her veto message, Lingle said that allowing children to depart existing state or federal health plans so they can be eligible for the free coverage "would clearly defeat the intent of this bill to provide health-care coverage to uninsured children."
Rep. Josh Green, a Big Island doctor and chairman of the House Health Committee, says the bill has been changed to limit the program to children whose parents are ineligible for other insurance. He said discussions with the state Department of Human Services about the changes have been positive.
An outreach program by the state Department of Health and the nonprofit Hawaii Covering Kids resulting in the enrollment of nearly 8,500 children in government insurance programs by 2005. Children in the gap group who would qualify for the proposed program number as high as 3,500, according to the bill's proponents. None should be left uninsured.
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