Blagojevich OKs All Kids

By Alisa Prigge

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed the “All Kids” health insurance bill into law Tuesday, making Illinois the only state in the nation to provide affordable, comprehensive health insurance to every child in the state.

The All Kids program offers affordable health insurance to more than 253,000 children in Illinois who do not have health insurance, regardless of family income level. For families of four making between $40,000 and $59,999 a year, insurance will cost $40 a month per child with a $10 co-pay per physician visit. For those making between $60,000 and $79,999, the cost will be $70 a month per child with a $15 co-pay.

The comprehensive insurance offered includes hospital stays, prescription drugs, vision care, dental care and medical devices like glasses and inhalers. Parents can start signing up for enrollment information now, and the children enrolled will begin receiving benefits July 1, 2006. More information on the specific individual costs of the program is available at

House Bill 806 was formally proposed to the Illinois General Assembly Oct. 25, and was passed by the Senate Committee the same day. It then went to the full Senate where it passed Oct. 26, and finally the House where it won final legislation Oct. 27 with a 79-28 vote.

The speedy way in which the bill was passed has caused some concern. State Senator Brad Burzynski (R) feels a bill as large as the All Kids program should have taken a couple years to review and consider, not a couple days.

“With such a large expansion of state programs there needs to be concern for the way we fund current programs, like Medicaid,” he said.

The All Kids plan involves switching those on Medicaid to a primary care case management system. Medicaid patients will be required to visit their primary physicians instead of going to an emergency room for help. This will lower emergency room costs, and the saved money will fund the All Kids program.

The state will cover the difference in cost between what the parents pay and the care costs not covered by the savings generated from the Medicaid switch.

While Republicans in the Illinois General Assembly have supported the Medicaid switch to primary care, they worry that Medicaid and its high bills are not receiving enough focus.

State Representative Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley) said 20 percent of the state budget goes to pay Medicaid bills and the number is going to increase every year. He feels this problem should be the state’s main concern.

“I obviously believe that children need to be insured, but I believe it is the duty of the federal government to do so, not the state,” Pritchard said. “Not to mention that the state is already $1.3 billion behind in Medicaid payments.”

But State Senate President Emil Jones Jr. (D), one of the leading sponsors of the program, does not agree with these concerns.

“Children’s health care should not be a decision, it should be a priority,” he said in a press release.

One local family agrees with Jones and is very excited about the signing of the bill.

“I wish I could thank the governor and the state personally for prioritizing this bill,” said Barb Bartel, a local resident and mother of three. “I have always made too much money to qualify for other forms of aid, but never enough money to be able to afford my own insurance for all the kids. This program offers a great weight off my shoulders, knowing my kids will soon be covered.”

The bill has received praise from others as well, ranging from representatives and senators to different organizations such as the Chicago Teachers Union, Families USA, a non-partisan national health policy organization, the “Campaign for Better Health care,” Advocate Health Care association, the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition, among others.