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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 10, 2006

Keiki Care calls for free healthcare for poor kids

Advertiser Staff


More information on qualifying for Quest is available from Hawai'i Covering Kids at www.coveringkids.com.

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Trying to close any gaps in health insurance coverage for children, Democrats in the state Legislature and the Hawai'i Medical Service Association released details yesterday of a three-year pilot program to cover children whose families do not qualify for the state's medical insurance program for the poor.

The Keiki Care plan, now moving through the Legislature, would provide free coverage for these children through HMSA, the state's largest private insurer. The children could receive preventive care, immunizations, dental services and limited prescription drug coverage.

An estimated 8,000 children statewide fall into this gap group, meaning they do not qualify for Quest and are not covered by private insurance. The three-year pilot could cost about $4 million a year, which would be split by the state and HMSA if the bill passes. The Lingle administration, meanwhile, is expanding the income eligibility limits for Quest, the medical insurance program for the poor, to cover as many as 9,000 more children.

Taken together, Quest and the Keiki Care program would cover every child in the state.

"This will result in fewer health problems and lower healthcare costs as they grow to be adults, and the state will benefit in the long term," state Rep. Dennis Arakaki, D-30th (Moanalua, Kalihi Valley), the chairman of the House Health Committee, said in a statement.

The Quest expansion will increase income eligibility limits so children from families who earn up to $57,000 a year would qualify for free insurance. Premiums for middle-income families who pay to have their children in Quest also would be reduced.