Hawaii Democrats Look To Put Funding for Children’s Insurance Program in Several Appropriations Bills To Sidestep Veto
Democratic lawmakers in Hawaii are planning to re-establish a state health insurance program for children by including $600,000 in various appropriations bills being completed this week, rather than passing a single measure that could be vetoed by Gov. Linda Lingle (R), the AP/Baton Rouge Advocate reports. Lingle eliminated the Keiki Care program in October 2008 a few months after it started accepting applicants. The program, established as part of a 2007 law, aimed to expand coverage to all uninsured children in the state. Keiki Care cost the state about $50,000 per month, or $25.50 per child. The Hawaii Medical Service Association, a health care provider, "more than matched" that amount per child, the AP/Advocate reports.
When the program ended in December 2008, more than 2,700 children were enrolled in either the HMSA Children's Plan, which cost families $55 per month, or the no-cost Keiki Care program. In January, about 2,000 were enrolled in the Children's Plan. Democrats say Keiki Care could offer coverage for 3,500 to 16,000 children. The funding could be inserted into bills that fund support services, allocate federal stimulus money and lay out an overall state budget plan, the AP/Advocate reports.
However, Lingle opposes the funding, saying that she believes it would be wasted on providing no-cost coverage for children in families who can afford insurance. Linda Smith, Lingle's senior policy adviser, said the program "provided a public subsidy" for these families and the state should not look to increase "frivolous" spending at a time when its budget must be decreased overall. Aides say Lingle would be able to cut funding for the program if it is presented as provisions in several other bills (Niesse, AP/Baton Rouge Advocate, 4/29).