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13,000 More Children May Get Health Care Bill Would Create Federal-State Partnership To Expand Medical Coverage

Associated Press

Up to 13,000 Idaho children who now don’t have medical care could be covered under a new federal-state partnership expected to start in October.

Under the new budget bill, Congress has authorized nearly $40 billion over the next 10 years to expand health care coverage for poor children.

Idaho is expected to get $15.6 million between October and September 1998.

Gov. Phil Batt said the money will help Idaho expand health care coverage beyond the 36,000 children now eligible for Medicaid.

“We intend to move quickly to take advantage of this opportunity to extend health insurance benefits to children whose families may not be able to afford medical costs,” the governor said. “This should allow us to serve between 12,000 and 13,000 additional youngsters.”

Batt said he and Linda Caballero, director of Health and Welfare, agreed Idaho will start its expansion Oct. 1, when the federal law takes effect. In the short term, the state will amend its Medicaid program to make more children eligible.

For the long term, the governor said he has authorized Caballero to appoint a committee to develop a permanent program for delivering health care services to children.

Caballero said that approach will allow for immediate expansion of coverage while giving the public involvement in developing a permanent plan.

The health care initiative is consistent with the final report of the Governor’s Medicaid Reform Advisory Council. Last year, it recommended expanding health insurance coverage to low-income children.

The Medicaid program provides health coverage for groups of low-income people. Currently, children up to age 14 whose parents earn up to 100 percent of the poverty level are eligible for Medicaid.

The new federal act raises the eligibility level to 200 percent of poverty and provides a 78 percent federal match for the expanded program.

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