Democrats Introduce Denali KidCare Expansion
Bill would provide health coverage to 1500 low-income women and children
JUNEAU – Today, Representative Harriet Drummond (D-Anchorage), Representative Beth Kerttula (D-Juneau) and Representative Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage) pre-filed legislation to expand Denali KidCare, the state’s popular health care program for low-income children and pregnant women, to roughly 1500 more Alaskan women and children.
The legislation (HB229) would increase the income limit for Alaska’s program from 175 to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, removing Alaska from its inglorious position as one of only three states not to offer health coverage for children and pregnant women at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Twenty states offer children’s health coverage up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level.
“Getting more Alaskans the health care they need is simply the right thing to do,” said Drummond. “If we want these kids to succeed in school and these women to have healthy babies, we need to make sure they are healthy and can get the care they need but cannot afford.”
Many of the children have working parents that just do not make enough money to afford health care. Other children have parents out of work or with seasonal jobs or are being raised by grandparents or other family members on fixed incomes.
Uninsured children with medical needs are four times more likely to use much costlier emergency rooms for non-emergencies, passing those costs on to Alaskans. Having access to health care adds stability to families, allows health providers to treat and identify victims of domestic violence, and makes it easier for children to access other related programs they may not otherwise be aware of. Ensuring more Alaskans have access to health care also saves Alaskans money.
“When the governor rejected Medicaid expansion for working class Alaska families, he left thousands of Alaskan children without access to affordable health care,” said Kerttula. “By expanding Denali KidCare, we can at least help these children and families avoid disaster while the governor is leaving them in the lurch.”
In 2010, fifty-two of sixty legislators voted to increase Denali Kid Care coverage to cover Alaskan children living in households earning 200% of the federal poverty level. Governor Parnell vetoed the expansion that year and has not offered any other means for those women and children to get the health care they need.
“This proposal has received broad bi-partisan support in the past,” said Tarr, “and we look forward to taking this important step toward helping more Alaskans get the care they need so illness and medical bills don’t push them over the financial brink.”
This legislation is part of a suite of bills from Kerttula, Tarr, and Drummond designed to promote women’s health, safety and economic opportunity in Alaska. Other legislation includes bills to teach children how to prevent child abuse, create safe places for breastfeeding in the workplace, establish earned sick leave, and re-instate the Alaska Commission on the Status of Women.
The new bills complement existing legislation (HB37) and upcoming budget requests to make child care more available and affordable for Alaskan parents looking to re-enter the workforce, to help child care businesses train and retain quality caregivers, and to ensure hospitals and the crime lab have the tools they need to bring rapists to justice.