President Barack Obama Wednesday signed federal legislation that gives Washington's Apple Health for Kids program a $15-million-per-year shot in the arm.
Governor Chris Gregoire, who was present for the signing, says the new funding available through the federal Children's Health Insurance Program gives Washington state more than enough federal support to restart Apple Health for Kids coverage for families earning between 250 and 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, which was suspended last December.
"This new money makes it possible for Washington to realize its goal of making comprehensive, affordable coverage available to every child who lacks private insurance by 2010," said Paola Maranan, executive director of the Children's Alliance.
The CHIP legislation brings Washington more funding to cover uninsured children in two ways:
-- the state will be able to cover more lower-income children through the CHIP program, which picks up two-thirds of the cost of covering children (as compared with Medicaid, which pays half of the cost of coverage.) Insured children down to 133 percent of the FPL will now draw down the two-thirds federal match. This change fixes a longstanding inequity that penalized Washington for insuring children above 133 percent before the original SCHIP passed.
-- The new law removes barriers to covering children up to 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.
"The reauthorization of the CHIP bill is good for families in King County and Washington State who need this help now more than ever," said Ron Sims, King County Executive. "It will help our state receive federal dollars and our families receive the coverage and linkage to care they need during these tough economic times."
Children's health advocates applauded today's signing of the CHIP bill for bringing much-needed children's health funding to Washington.
Tom Hansen, MD, CEO of Seattle Children's Hospital, said, "On behalf of our patients I want to thank the Washington congressional delegation for its overwhelming support for this important program."
"President Obama and Congress have just opened the door for Washington to cover the rest of our uninsured children using tens of millions in federal funds," said Rebecca Kavoussi, director of government affairs, Community Health Network of Washington. "We hope and expect that Governor Gregoire and the Legislature will move swiftly to restore coverage in Apple Health for Kids."
"Now we call on the Governor and legislature to safeguard all the CHIP money for health care as Congress intended, not divert it to fill the general budget hole," Leo Greenawalt, president, Washington State Hospital Association.