Free vaccines extended
The state of Idaho will buy all required vaccines for children through January 2010, Gov. Butch Otter said Tuesday.
The announcement comes weeks after a legislative task force voted to reverse budget cuts of $2.1 million to restore the state’s child immunization program at least through the rest of this year.
For years, the state had subsidized vaccinations for children, but that program was to expire last month amid budget cuts at the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
Idaho has the lowest child immunization rate in the nation.
Otter says he hopes extending coverage will give a health care task force more time to develop a long-term solution that spreads costs among insurance companies, physicians and customers.
Otter also says he’s disappointed that parties in the health care system have not developed an alternative system for covering vaccinations.
The task force recently asked Otter to transfer funds within the state Department of Health and Welfare budget to cover vaccine purchases. This move came after Idaho Health and Welfare announced that the state no longer would pay for vaccinations for children covered by private health insurance, and instead would organize a voluntary purchasing pool.
Health and Welfare faces an estimated $20 million shortfall to cover Medicaid costs in the budget year that began July 1. The agency thought it would be able to offset the budget cut with federal stimulus money for a year, and lawmakers approved the cut. But the federal money didn’t come through.
Otter’s office said only one vaccine manufacturer submitted a pricing schedule to participate in the proposed vaccine purchasing pool, and it was at or above the market price.
“It would be an understatement to say I’m disappointed that some players in the health care system have not lived up to the roles designed into that system,” the governor said.