Children's health care will put Hawaii on top
The Legislature has approved a bill that would ensure health coverage for all of the state's children.
TOO MANY of Hawaii's children lack medical insurance because their parents are uninsured. That should change in the next school year because of legislation aimed at launching a three-year pilot program to ensure health coverage from everyone from birth to 18 years old. Gov. Linda Lingle should sign the bill into law.
The Legislature passed a similar Keiki Care Plan last year, but Lingle vetoed it because a flaw would have defeated the bill's intent to provide health-care coverage to uninsured children. Rep. Josh Green, a Big Island doctor and chairman of the House Health Committee, said early in this year's session that changes would be made to correct the legislation to the administration's liking.
Hawaii's 1974 health-insurance law left only 2 percent of residents uninsured. Some companies have chosen to hire part-time employees to be exempt from the law. As a result, about 10 percent of Hawaii's residents lack health insurance, below the national average but higher than that of four other states.
The Census Bureau estimated several years ago that nearly 20,000 of Hawaii's children were uninsured. That number has been reduced significantly through a state-sponsored outreach program.
The bill's sponsors estimated that as many as 3,500 children are uninsured because their 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 measure provides access to free medical care for such children.
The program will make Hawaii the first state to guarantee health insurance to all children and a model for other states to follow.
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