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April 3, 2000

Governor's Expansion Of Kidcare Receives Federal Approval

SPRINGFIELD-Governor George H. Ryan today announced Illinois will expand the KidCare health insurance program by 20,000 children not otherwise covered thanks to federal approval of new state eligibility requirements.

"With enrollment above 95,000 through April of this year, we can proudly state that more Illinois children are currently insured under Medicaid and the KidCare program than were insured at the inception of welfare reform," Ryan reported. "We receive about 300 applications per day, proof that KidCare is a success," he said.

KidCare is Illinois' program to extend health insurance benefits to pregnant women and children who are not otherwise able to get healthcare because they lack insurance. The state Department of Public Aid submitted a proposal in November 1998 to implement the second phase of the KidCare program, which expands potential enrollments. Just last week, IDPA received approval from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for federal funds to expand the program.

With the expansion, Illinois qualified to receive more than $121 million in federal funds. The federal government has appropriated $24 billion over five years to help states to expand health insurance to families that do not earn enough to afford private health insurance.

"Illinois is now able to access the millions of federal dollars set aside for children's health insurance," IDPA Director Ann Patla said.

The initial SCHIP plan for Illinois included an expansion of Medicaid. The federally approved plan consists of a separate program for children below age 19 in families with income levels between 133 percent and 185 percent of the federal poverty level.

Illinois children are eligible for KidCare through the age of 18 if their families meet certain income requirements. A family of four with an income up to $34,000 is eligible. KidCare enrollment for April 2000 stands at 95,381, with more than 12,000 of these children covered under the newly approved KidCare Share and KidCare Premium programs.

Patla explained that the KidCare program is Illinois' expansion of health benefits under the SCHIP. SCHIP allows states to design new health insurance programs; expand current Medicaid program; or combine strategies. To receive federal match of funding dollars, states must submit their plants to the federal government for approval.

Enrollment in the program has tripled since the Governor's KidCare Campaign Kick-off nearly one year ago. At that time, the state shortened and simplified the application, as well as easing the application process by accepting mail-in forms. "The Department also began a partnership with community organizations and health care providers to reach out to families and assist them in completing applications," Patla added. The state has more than 1,200 KidCare application agent sites.


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