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House Eliminates Premiums for Children, Senate Doesn't

February 23, 2004

Seattle, Wash.: Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center praises state legislators for protecting child health by eliminating premiums for poor and low-income children's healthcare.

Seattle, Wash.: Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center praises state legislators for protecting child health by eliminating premiums for poor and low-income children's healthcare.

The House of Representatives' budget released today eliminates monthly premiums for children's health coverage on the Medicaid program.

New funds made available through the federal Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) have made it possible to avoid this devastating loss in children's health coverage. In combination with the newly available federal CHIP funds, only $1.2 million in State funds are necessary to fully protect health coverage for poor and low-income children.

The Senate budget, also released today, fails to match the House proposal. The Senate budget charges monthly premiums for children in families living at the poverty level -- about $15,000 for a family of three – and above. In the fall of 2003, Texas implemented nearly the same monthly premiums for children at the poverty level, and, by January of 2004, 100,000 children lost coverage as a result.

"Monthly bills for Medicaid will compromise children's health, leaving them uninsured," said Dr. Richard Molteni, Children's Vice President and Medical Director. "If children go without preventive health care, they will end up sicker in our emergency rooms - threatening their health and using the most expensive forms of health care."

Dr. Eileen Klein, Emergency Physician, Children's Hospital, has seen the results of delaying care: "I have seen children in the Emergency Department whose asthma attacks have worsened to the point of needing hospitalization. My concern is that in some cases this is due to lack of insurance."

The $500 annual cost to the state of insuring a low-income child is nearly the cost of one emergency room visit for asthma. Assuring children access to early care is particularly cost-effective.

The State of Washington's Children Winter 2003 report finds assuring Washington children access to early and preventive care dramatically decreased hospitalizations for preventable conditions such as asthma, pneumonia, and gastroenteritis.

Children's Hospital calls on state legislators to dedicate the small amount of state funds necessary to fully assure children access to cost-effective health care, keeping kids healthy and decreasing avoidable hospitalizations.

About Seattle Children's Hospital

Consistently ranked as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Children’s serves as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical referral center for the largest landmass of any children’s hospital in the country (Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho). For more than 100 years, Children’s has been delivering superior patient care and advancing new treatments through pediatric research. Children’s serves as the primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The hospital works in partnership with Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation. For more information, visit http://www.seattlechildrens.org.

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