States Expand Kids' Coverage Despite Widespread Health Care Budget Cuts

"Although states are facing their worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression, 14 found the dollars this year to increase health coverage for about 250,000 children," Stateline/Finance and Commerce reports. The states received an additional $33 million for the program from Congress with the February reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program. Meanwhile, the White House decided to allow states to have more control over who their programs would cover, such as children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. New expansions, however, come against the backdrop of broad cuts to health programs in at least 21 states (Vu, 8/5).

Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed a bill Tuesday expanding state coverage to 80,000 uninsured children and 35,000 low-income adults, using revenue from new taxes on hospitals and insurers, The Associated Press/Forbes reports. "The expansion is by far the biggest in the nation during these economic times - Montana comes in second at 30,000 and puts Oregon on track to cover 95 percent of its children" (Kost, 8/5).

In New York, Gov. David Paterson also signed new laws to help expand coverage, but the director of one consumer group called them "teeny, tiny steps," Newsday reports. The changes would allow unmarried children of the parents to remain on their family's health insurance up to age 29, and would extend eligibility for COBRA which allows former employees to buy insurance from their company's group health plan at its full cost from 18 months to 36 months (Ochs, 8/5).

Meanwhile, North Carolina slashed $40 million from its budget for providing mental health treatment to the uninsured, the Charlotte Observer reports. "The cuts and changes rip holes in an already weak mental health system, advocates said. A state lawmaker said there was little choice (Bonner, 8/6).

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