Gov. proposes All Kids program

By Michael Swiontek

Gov. Rod Blagojevich is proposing an ambitious All Kids program to provide affordable health insurance to every child in the state.

This proposal would make Illinois the first state to provide this variety of coverage.

One of the key elements of the plan would be a switch in Medicaid to a primary care case management system. This shift would force patients to a primary physician and reduce emergency room visits and save $57 million next year, said Gerardo Cardenas, the governor’s Chicago press secretary.

The program would provide health care for $40 a month per child for families of four making $40,000 to $59,999 a year, with a $10 co-pay. For those making $60,000 to $79,999, the cost would be $70 per month with a $15 co-pay. This and further information is available at the program’s Web site,

“The governor is spearheading an outreach campaign,” Cardenas said. “He will be talking to families and providers leading up to his speech to the legislature Oct. 25.”

He is also holding a health-care rally Oct. 23.

To qualify, someone must have lived in the state for more than a year and would have to be uninsured for that year.

Despite that requirement, some Illinois Republicans worry about people moving to Illinois. By acting as a magnet, “We could open ourselves up to more costs,” said State Rep. Robert Pritchard(R-Hinckley).

Pritchard believes the duty of insuring children is not up to the state, but rather the federal government.

A program to insure more kids was already in the budget in May, Pritchard said. And the timing is off, he said.

“The state is already $1.3 billion behind in making Medicaid payments,” he said.

The All Kids program is expected to help the state save money by switching to primary care, but some debate exists about the amount of those savings.

“Although there are initial cost savings with the primary care system, it is unlikely that they are going to overcome the very high long-term growth rate of health-care costs,” said Virginia Wilcox-Gok, associate professor of economics. “There’s an indication that people with serious health conditions may get worse care.”

The state estimates the All Kids program will cost $96 million in its fifth year and the savings generated by a switch to primary care will be $93 million, Cardenas said.

“Primary care is a very well-established way to reduce costs,” said James Ciesla, an associate professor in the School of Allied Health Professions.

There are 253,000 kids without insurance in Illinois.

“People are unaware they are eligible, or at times disenfranchised by the system,” Ciesla said.