Hawaii Ends Universal Health Care Program For Children

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Seven months after it started, Hawaii is ending funding for Keiki Care, its universal health care program for children, the AP/Miami Herald reports. Beginning Nov. 1, the state no longer will provide funding for the 2,000 children enrolled in the program, but private partner Hawaii Medical Service Association will pay to cover the children through the end of 2008.

Gov. Linda Lingle (R), who signed the program into law in 2007, said a state budget shortfall prompted the funding cut. Hawaii faces a projected $900 million general fund deficit by 2011. The state contributed about $50,000 monthly, or $25.50 per child, to the program, and HMSA provided additional funding. The program essentially was available at no cost for participants except for a $7 copayment for physician office visits. All uninsured children up to age 18 were eligible for the program.

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HMSA spokesperson Jennifer Diesman said, "We're very disappointed in the state's decision, and it came as a complete surprise to us." She added, "We believe the program is working, and given Hawaii's economic uncertainty, we don't think now is the time to cut all funding for this kind of program."

Families with children enrolled in Keiki Care are being encouraged to apply for Medicaid coverage or enroll in HMSA Children's Plan, which costs about $55 per month. Diesman said, "Most of them won't be eligible for Medicaid, and that's why they were enrolled in Keiki Care," adding, "It's the gap group that we're trying to ensure has coverage."

According to some state officials, many of the children enrolled in Keiki Care previously had private health insurance, the AP/Herald reports. Kenny Fink, administrator for Med-QUEST at the Hawaii Department of Human Services, said, "People who were already able to afford health care began to stop paying for it so they could get it for free." He added, "I don't believe that was the intent of the program" (Niesse, AP/Miami Herald, 10/17).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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