Move to Expand Eligibility for Children's Health Care In Nebraska

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The Health and Human Services Committee will hear testimony on a bill (LB 136) on Wednesday, to expand the eligibility for children who qualify for the State's Children Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) or Kids Connection in Nebraska..

The program is in place to help families who do not qualify for Medicaid, but cannot afford private health insurance.

LB 136 was introduced by Senators Bill Avery, Kathy Campbell and Gwen Howard. Under the bill, the standard for a family of three would go up from 185 percent to 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

According to the Center for People in Need, children in homes with an annual income of $35,200 will qualify for the program. Right now, the cut off for a family of three is $32,560.

Those at the center say the increase would mean at least 5,400 more low-income children in Nebraska would be eligible for health care.

Supporters of the bill say more than 70 percent of Kids Connection will be funded through federal money. However Senator Tony Fulton of Lincoln says the 30 percent will still be a substantial cost to Nebraskans.

"These are tough economic times and for the state to raise more money requires us to go out and get taxes from Nebraskans who I don't think are in the position to pay more taxes," Fulton said.

According to the fiscal note attached to the bill, it would cost the state $7,764,446 dollars for the first fiscal year to expand the program. The cost to the state is expected to go up to $10,288,855 for fiscal year 2010-2011.