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Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Health insurance for kids: Who should get aid?
By Kyung M. Song
Seattle Times health reporter
Should parents who earn nearly $62,000 a year and have two kids qualify for steeply discounted children's health insurance that's subsidized by the public?
That's the crux of a standoff between two dozen states, including Washington, and the Bush administration over how far to stretch tax dollars to cover kids from "middle-income" families.
The battle is partly an ideological one over how large a role government should take in providing health care.
But it's taken on a practical urgency as more working Americans lose employer-sponsored health insurance and can't afford the full cost of premiums, which now can rival second-mortgage payments.
On Monday, Gov. Christine Gregoire and her counterparts in New York, New Jersey and five other states said they are suing or will sue the federal government for having frustrated efforts to raise the income limit for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SHIP).
On Tuesday, Gregoire and 28 other governors sent a letter to President Bush urging him to sign a bill authorizing more money for SCHIP and loosening new restrictions.
SCHIP is a joint federal-state program that provides health coverage for children who don't qualify for Medicaid.
Bush has opposed using federal money to subsidize coverage for children in families earning more than 250 percent of the poverty level, or $51,600 for a family of four, unless 95 percent of Medicaid- or SCHIP-eligible children in lower-income brackets enroll first.
No state apparently now meets that benchmark. And that could stymie plans by Washington and other states to expand SCHIP into higher-income families — in the case of New York up to four times the poverty level, or $82,600 for a family of four.