Health Care for children is rising in importance for next year’s legislative session. Bills that would increase participation in the Denali Kid Care program have new support. Sharon Leighow is Governor Parnell’s spokesperson.
The governor recognizes that many people have trouble affording health care. And Gov Parnell would support expanding Denali Kid Care eligibility limits to two hundred percent. Anything above that level and he would consider co-pays, some form of co-pays.
A bill passed the Senate last year that would raise the cap on those families that could get complete medical care – primarily for children – from a family income of one hundred seventy five to two hundred percent of the state’s poverty level. And others are pending that would allow parents who earn more than double the poverty level to purchase the coverage.
The increased level would add thirteen hundred children to the rolls. Anchorage Democrat Les Gara – who has sponsored another bill — says the co-pay element would make health care available to another ten thousand children. He says right now the government provides medical insurance for people who aren’t working. And people some people get coverage as a job benefit.
We don’t provide the medical coverage needed to children of people who work who can’t afford medical coverage, right? This isn’t an issue of giving out welfare benefits. This is an issue of helping people get medical care for their children because the people they work for don’t offer health insurance. For very little money, we could allow families to buy into the Denali Kid Care program and every child in the state could have for very little money have health insurance.
Anchorage Senator Bill Wielechowski says having the governor openly behind the bill will help in getting the eligibility increased.
When you have alignment between the legislative branch and the executive branch it’s amazing the things that can happen. Bipartisan alignment, you have Democrats who have supported this bill for years, you have a Republican governor who supports it. I think it really is our best prospect of getting this passed that we’ve had in many years.
Wasilla Republican Wes Keller is chair of the House Health and Social Services committee and has two of the bills under consideration. He says he anticipates one of them passing this session – saying the committee has two points to work on – first is how Denali Kid Care fits into the national health care debate, the other is finding a way to structure the “co-pay” element of the plan.
Leighow says at this time, the administration will not introduce its own bill, nor is it part of the governor’s agenda, but she says that the governor is prepared to accept what the legislature sends him.