Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand says the state doesn't have enough money to pay for Health Choice until the end of the year. The program provides health care for kids in families with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
Congress and the White House have been battling over reauthorizing the program, giving state lawmakers an excuse to cut its state funding. The House budget includes $10.4 million for Health Choice. The Senate budget only has $1.7 million and caps the enrollment next year and would not allow any kids to sign up for coverage from September 1 to April.
(Actually, lawmakers ought to be funding Kids' Care, an program to cover children in families who earn up to 300 percent of poverty. Adam Searing makes that clear in a recent post here on the Pulse. )
It seems like a no-brainer to cover kids who are eliginle for care now under Health Choice and not wait for Washington. And the money is there, whatever Rand and other Senate leaders say.
There is $2.7 million in the Senate budget for renovation of the polar exhibit at the zoo and another $4.3 million for an oyster hatchery, not to mention that the Senate recently decided to give wealthy people another tax break by voting to repeal the state gift tax, which will reduce state revenue by $18 million.
That would pay for a lot of trips to the doctor for kids who currently don't have health care coverage. State budgets are really just a list of priorities and whether Senate leaders want to admit it or not, their list seems to indicate they think more of polar bears and oysters and helping rich people than keeping kids healthy.