January 31, 2009 in City

Kids health care plan would bring extra cash to state

By The Spokesman-Review

Tara McCanna, a stay-at-home mother of two, holds her son Darren as Sen. Maria Cantwell, left, meets with health care workers Friday at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital in Spokane.
(Full-size photo)

Washington state would get an extra $14 million from the federal government this year to help pay for children’s health insurance under a proposal approved by the U.S. Senate, Democrat Maria Cantwell said Friday.

The state’s junior U.S. senator made a stop at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital in Spokane on Friday to talk about the bill, which she said would correct a problem with the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program since its inception in 1997. Some states, like Washington, that had existing child health care programs got less money than states with no programs.

“We’re very excited we finally got justice in the funding formula for Washington,” said Cantwell, who was joined at a news conference by staff from the hospital and representatives of the Community Health Association of Spokane and a medical access program called Health for All. “We should have never been penalized because we were one of the first in the nation to realize access to health care should be a priority.”

CHIP provides health insurance for children in families that aren’t poor enough to qualify for Medicaid but still can’t afford health care. This year, it would cover families below 300 percent of the federal poverty level.

The revised rules for CHIP approved by the Senate would boost the state’s allotment from nearly $80 million last year to $94 million in 2009. The program covers about 78,000 children in Washington and 1,144 in Spokane; under the new rules, it would cover an additional 6,000 children statewide, Cantwell said.

The changes come as more families face layoffs and cutbacks or losses of health insurance benefits at work, she added.

The bill now goes to the House, which passed a slightly different version earlier in the month. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the final version.

On another topic, Cantwell said the Senate will take up its version of the economic stimulus package next week, and it, too, will have differences from the legislation passed this week in the House. She said she couldn’t predict whether the Senate package would have to pass without Republican support, as the House version did. But, she noted, six Republicans did vote for the changes in the CHIP rules.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email