Governor proposes major expansion of Child Health Plus

February 1998

Program would be outside Medicaid; advocates already are calling for still more

Governor Pataki has proposed a broad expansion of taxpayer-funded health coverage for children in a package that would include vision, dental, speech and hearing care.

The expanded coverage would be funded by $256 million that the state will receive from the federal government in each of the next five years under a child health insurance law passed by Congress in 1997.

In addition to expanding the types of care available, the proposal would cover far more children than are covered by the existing program.

Children in families with incomes up to 160 percent of the federal poverty level would have coverage entirely paid for by taxpayers. That threshhold is above the federal requirement, 150 percent of poverty.

Families with incomes up to 222 percent of poverty -- around $35,600 for a family of four -- would be able to buy coverage for their children at monthly rates lower than those offered now. The new rate would be $9 per child, with a maximum of $36 per family.

The state Health Department contracts with 25 managed care plans to provide comprehensive health care for children.

Other new services that would be covered include inpatient mental health, alcohol and substance abuse services; and wheelchairs, leg braces and hearing devices. Lobbyists for increased taxpayer-funded health care have made it clear that they will push for further expansions to the program.

The Business Council, which has supported Child Health Plus since its creation, supports the Governor's proposal to keep Child Health Plus in the private insurance market.

Some advocates are pressing to have the new coverage provided by Medicaid. That would significantly increase costs for local property taxpayers while expanding a Medicaid program that is already the nation's most costly.

February 12, 1998