Commission seeks health coverage for Iowa children

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A special commission called Tuesday for a $20 million expansion in health coverage for children of the working poor as a first step toward covering all of the state's children.

Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, said the group's study would nudge Iowa toward universal health coverage, but he conceded the proposal offered no specifics on how to reach such coverage or pay for it.

"This is an extraordinary step," said Hatch.

After nearly a year of study, the Legislative Commission on Affordable Health Care urged lawmakers to expand a joint state and federal program that offers health coverage to children of the working poor. Hatch said an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 children in Iowa qualify for benefits but aren't covered because of a lack of funding.

Covering those children would cost the state up to $20 million annually, along with an additional $30 million in federal funding, said Hatch.

Although the commission called for covering all Iowa children, Hatch and Rep. Ro Foege, D-Mount Vernon, acknowledged they didn't have specifics about the number of needy children without coverage or the cost of reaching all of them. Hatch and Foege headed the commission.

"Our first step and our top recommendation for the upcoming legislative session is to make sure that all Iowa kids have health insurance," said Foege.

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