All Kids Health Plan Has the Governor, Illinois Republicans Divided

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With more than 250,000 Illinois children currently without health coverage, Gov. Rod Blagojevich is proposing something big.

"We are now in a position. Our fiscal house is in order, and we are poised to seize this moment, right this time, to give every single child in the state of Illinois access to complete and affordable health insurance," Blagojevich said.

The All Kids program - expected to cost about $350 million across five years - would target families making between $40,000 and $80,000, a group which makes too much for public assistance, but not enough to afford health insurance.

"That means regular doctors visits. That means going to the dentist. That means having your eyes checked. That means coverage for the medicines children need," Blagojevich said.

But what children need and what Illinois can afford is another issue. Elgin based state senator Steve Rauschenberger says while statewide children's health insurance is admirable, he argues the taxpayer - and the health industry - would foot the added expense.

"What he's going to do I think is stretch out the payment cycle. What he's going to do is essentially make the providers of the state of Illinois pay for it by paying them more re-imbursements and more slowly," Rauschenberger said.

The governor compares his All Kids plan in 2005 to Medicare in 1965; a program he believes will make Illinois a national leader in children's health coverage.

"Unfortunately there's always going to be some in politics who want to play politics with an issue and balance budgets and do things at the expense of kids, because they don't want to give that Governor, who happens to be a Democrat, something that's right," Blagojevich said.

But state Republicans argue there's a lot that's wrong. Rauschenberger labels Blagojevich's All Kids plan as too little, too late, nothing more but a campaign ploy before he goes up for re-election.

"We've had on the books programs in Illinois where children could join the health care program of their parents, and go to the same doctors and have the same kind of health care. It's too bad this governor couldn't implement any of those programs for the last three years," Rauschenberger said.

The children's healthcare plan has the governor excited about its potential success, and Republicans skeptical of its potential costs.

Should the All Kids plan pass, a family with two kids that earns between $40,000 and $59,000 a year would pay $40 a month per child and $10 for co-pay. A family which makes up to $79,000 would pay $70 per child a month, and $15 per co-pay. The governor is hopeful the General Assembly will pass the plan this fall. That way, the health program would get underway next July.