CHICAGO –The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, one of the nation’s most respected independent health policy research organizations, released a report today finding that Illinois, for the second year in a row, is leading the nation in delivering health care coverage for children and parents. Illinois’ ranking comes as a result of Governor Rod Blagojevich’s expansions of KidCare and FamilyCare: health care programs that provide affordable coverage to working men and women and their children.
“Children ought to have health care. Adults ought to have health care. We’ve made it our top priority to provide affordable health care to working men and women and their children and fortunately, the results are paying off. Over 341,000 more parents and children now have health care and that makes Illinois a better state,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
The report shows that in 2004, Illinois ranks number one in overall growth with increased enrollment in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) by 73,835 (30,567 children and 43,268 parents through SCHIP funded KidCare and FamilyCare). The report states that, “in Illinois, the growth in the number of children with KidCare health coverage resulted from a concerted state effort to enroll low-income, uninsured children and families.”
“Illinois has demonstrated that a commitment to health programs during difficult state budget cycles can lead to strong growth in health coverage,” said Diane Rowland, Executive Director of the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. “Illinois has been a leader in ensuring access to affordable coverage for working families, helping to moderate the growth in the number of uninsured Americans as the availability of affordable private insurance continues to decline.”
Increasing Coverage for Illinois’ Working Parents: The report also shows that Illinois led the nation in increasing coverage for working parents covered by the FamilyCare program by an astonishing 104% percent between December 2003 and 2004. It states, “the enrollment gain nationally was primarily driven by Illinois, which more than doubled enrollment in its program during 2004, covering nearly 85,000 adults by year's end.”
Increasing Coverage for Illinois’ Children: Overall, SCHIP grew nationally by only 0.6% in 2004, the lowest growth since the program started in 1998. The 33.2% growth in coverage for Illinois' children was substantially above the national level. The Kaiser report says, “Illinois had both double-digit percentage growth of 33% and significant enrollment growth of 31,000, ranking it second in the nation in both measures of growth.”
The report also states, “in Illinois, the growth in the number of children with KidCare health coverage resulted from a concerted state effort to enroll low-income, uninsured children and families. Illinois' efforts resulted in its being one of only four states in the country with an increase in SCHIP coverage of children between December of 2003 and 2004 in excess of both 10,000 and 10%.”
“Governor Blagojevich has made it very clear that he plans to protect the children and parents who currently rely on Medicaid coverage and expand health care coverage to more working families,” said Barry Maram, Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS). “Rather than cut health care coverage or significantly reduce it, like other states are doing, the governor stood up on this issue and is successfully providing families access to health care for a reasonable cost.”
KidCare and FamilyCare provide comprehensive health care coverage to children and parents whose income is too high to qualify for regular Medicaid. The programs are a cost-effective means of fighting the problem of uninsured children and families because the federal reimbursement to the state is 65 percent, instead of the standard Medicaid reimbursement rate of 50 percent.
In July 2003, Gov. Blagojevich signed legislation that expanded the eligibility level for KidCare from 185 percent to 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). That means that children in a family of four earning up to $38,700 annually are eligible for full health coverage. Since taking office, Gov. Blagojevich has expanded KidCare health coverage to 168,698 more children and FamilyCare health coverage to 172,629 more working parents. A total of more than 1.6 million Illinoisans now have health care through the two programs.
Gov. Blagojevich has worked to further expand FamilyCare by increasing the eligibility level for benefits. Effective January 1, 2006, the FamilyCare standard will be raised from 133 percent of the FPL (annual household income of $25,740 for a family of four) to 185 percent of the FPL (an annual household income of $35,796 for a family of four). This will be the third FamilyCare expansion since under Gov. Blagojevich and will make an additional 56,000 parents eligible for health insurance.
The complete Kaiser report can be found at: http://www.kff.org/medicaid/7348.cfm