Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Ways and Means health subcommittee, today reintroduced the MediKids Health Insurance Act, a bill that would provide healthcare coverage to all U.S. children. Stark, a longtime health policymaker, has sponsored a version of the bill in each Congress going back at least a decade.
The legislation would provide safety net coverage for children who may see a lapse in their health insurance. The bill allows parents the option of enrolling their children in private plans or government programs such as Medicaid or SCHIP. But if a lapse in other coverage does occur, then MediKids would kick in automatically.
Before Congress enacted Medicare more than 40 years ago, seniors were the most likely age group to live in poverty in America, Stark said in a statement. Today, children have taken their place.
Federal data show that there are more than 44.8 million uninsured Americans, about 9 million of whom are children.
Under the bill, every child would be automatically enrolled in MediKids at birth and remain eligible until they are 23. Children born after 2009 would gain immediate eligibility, while older children would be phased in over five years. The bill also waives premiums and cost-sharing for families living below 150% of the poverty level. Families that earn more would pay reduced premiums and costs.
Congress would initially fund the program, though the tax laws would eventually have to be amended to provide long-term funding. -- by Matthew DoBias