Legislators announced a health care package Tuesday that would extend coverage to all Iowa children.
Supporters said they hoped to achieve that goal within about three years.
Under the measure, the state would extend existing programs to an additional 25,000 youngsters who are eligible for health care but excluded because the state can't afford to pay for their coverage. An additional 19,000 children without coverage would get a state subsidy to enroll them in private health care plans.
"We will rely on a partnership to guarantee that every Iowa child has affordable, accessible health care," said Rep. Ro Foege, D-Mount Vernon, a main backer of the effort. "In the process of covering all of Iowa's kids, we will begin a fundamental reform of Iowa's health care system focused on expanded coverage, prevention and cost containment."
Foege and other lawmakers unveiled their package at a Statehouse news conference.
They said a special joint House-Senate committee has been formed to craft details of the package.
"We think it's a lot more efficient to begin this process with the Senate and the House meeting together," said Foege. "This is a very complex and a very huge bill."
In essence, the legislation would expand programs like Medicaid while putting in place funding to cover more children from low-income families. Families with incomes ranging from 200 percent to 300 percent of the federal poverty level would likely be eligible for a subsidy to purchase private health coverage, Foege said.
Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, predicted the package would win approval, making it a first step toward ensuring all Iowans have health care.
"We will cover all Iowa's children with a plan that focuses on choice, affordability, consumer information, cost containment and preventative health care," said Gronstal. "I believe we can accomplish this goal in the next two to three years."
Foege said the state has contracted with a private group to forecast the cost of such a health care package. That estimate probably won't be available until March.
"All of this is predicated on when funds are available," said Foege. "It is primarily a policy commitment at this point."
Foege and Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, headed a study committee that spent much of the interim examining ways to expand health coverage. Many of the group's ideas will eventually end up in the proposed legislation, Foege said.
Those proposals include expanded telemedicine, creation of "medical homes" to focus on wellness and prevention efforts, and efforts to hold down the costs of private insurance.
The measure would create a Health Care Insurance Exchange, a quasi-public agency that would set standards for assistance and other issues, Foege said.