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August 5, 2004

Blagojevich Administration Delivers on Health Care Pledge
National Study reports Illinois tops nation in expanding coverage for working families and children

Governor proclaims August KidCare and FamilyCare Month,
launches back-to-school initiative to notify parents about health care options
BERWYN – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich visited MacNeal Hospital in near-west suburban Berwyn today to encourage low-income parents to take advantage of the state’s recently-expanded FamilyCare and KidCare programs, and to celebrate a new national study that shows Illinois is continuing to lead the nation in the battle to deliver health care coverage for low-income children and parents, despite the state’s historic budget crisis.
The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured reported that in 2003, Illinois increased the number of working parents covered by the Illinois Department of Public Aid’s (IDPA) FamilyCare program by an astonishing 227 percent, far outpacing all other states. The report said Illinois was second in the nation from June to December of 2003 in terms of increasing the number of children covered by KidCare, known nationally as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
The report states that at a time when national enrollment for children was on the decline and many states were cutting eligibility levels and/or benefits, “Illinois placed a priority on expanding coverage for children and parents through SCHIP.”
“I’m proud of the progress we have made in providing health care for children and families,” said Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich. “But our work is far from over. That’s why in the recently concluded budget negotiations, I was absolutely committed to protecting the gains we have made and to keeping our commitment to further expand FamilyCare to cover an additional 56,000 working parents.”
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. That means that children in a family of four earning up to $37,704 annually are eligible for full health coverage.
Also last July, FamilyCare eligibility was expanded from 49 percent to 90 percent of the poverty level.
In the budget for Fiscal Year 2005, the Governor fought to further expand FamilyCare eligibility to 133 percent of the poverty level. State officials project the expansion will eventually cover an additional 56,000 working parents. The expansion means the income level for coverage will rise from $16,968 for a family of four to $25,068.  The new budget also includes new funding to enroll 20,000 more children in the KidCare program.
“State expansions of coverage for low-income children through Medicaid and SCHIP have helped to stem the rising number of uninsured Americans,” said Diane Rowland, executive vice president of the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.  “As Illinois' continuing commitment so clearly demonstrates, these efforts make a real difference -- even in tough fiscal times.”
The Kaiser Commission report found that coverage for parents under the SCHIP program in Illinois jumped 227 percent from December 2002 to December 2003. Enrollment climbed from 12,703 parents to 41,257 during the year. The increase was far greater than any of the other states that provide SCHIP coverage for parents in both real and percentage terms. Arizona was second in the nation with an increase of 47 percent while two states saw enrollments decline.
The report also found that the number of children covered under KidCare in Illinois increased 20 percent during 2003, with enrollment jumping from 76,928 to 92,144. For the last six months of 2003, Illinois had the second highest KidCare enrollment gain in the country.  Only one state, Georgia, added more children to its SCHIP program than Illinois during the same period.
The findings are in marked contrast to where Illinois stood prior to the Blagojevich Administration when the percentage increase in children's coverage was below the national average for 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002.
A study last year by the Kaiser Commission reported that Illinois was one of only three states in the nation that expanded access to health care while also not cutting rates paid to health care providers.
“Gov. Blagojevich has shown time and again that he’s not just talking about delivering health care coverage for low-income children and parents,” said IDPA Director Barry S. Maram. “This latest report from the Kaiser Commission is hard evidence that the Governor is getting the job done.”
Maram noted that IDPA recently streamlined the application process, making it easier and quicker to get kids enrolled. In January, the state switched to requiring one pay-stub instead of a month’s worth of stubs for income verification. And in April, IDPA adopted “presumptive eligibility” for children, which means children are covered immediately once their parents file an application stating they meet the program’s income threshold.
Governor Blagojevich today proclaimed August KidCare and FamilyCare Month, and congratulated community organizations like Covering Kids and Families in Illinois for their work in promoting the state’s low-income health care programs.  This year the group will host its 6th Annual Back-to-School Outreach and Enrollment campaign. 
The Governor also announced a new state outreach initiative. The Department of Public Aid, which administers Illinois’ SCHIP programs, will partner with thirteen of the state’s largest school districts outside of the City of Chicago to notify parents about both the KidCare and FamilyCare programs.  During their first week of school, children will be sent home with an application that works for both programs.
“We were successful in the effort to secure more funding for FamilyCare and KidCare in the new budget, now we need to make sure parents whose families are eligible for health coverage know about the programs we offer,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
KidCare and FamilyCare provide comprehensive health care coverage to children and parents whose income is too high to qualify for regular Medicaid. More than one million Illinois children and 365,000 parents have health coverage under Medicaid, KidCare and FamilyCare.
Maram underscored that KidCare and FamilyCare provide 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. 
The full Kaiser Commission report can be viewed at: ww.kff.org/medicaid/loader.cfm?url=/commonspot/security/getfile.cfm&PageID=44443 >.


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