The Governor and Lieutenant Governor are renewing their call for expanding the program that provides insurance coverage for children in low-income families. The program is called “Healthy and Well Kids in Iowa” or HAWK-I Governor Vilsack says the program should be increased to cover families who earn incomes at 200-percent of the poverty level, it currently covers families at 185-percent of the poverty level.That would be equivalent to a family of four making around 32-thousand dollars a year. Vilsack says the increase would include approximately six-thousand more kids. Vilsack says providing insurance saves the state money in the long run. Vilsack wants to fund the HAWK-I expansion with one-million dollars from the tobacco settlement money. Some legislators balk at the idea, saying the program hasn’t yet been fully utilized. Vilsack says this program will ensure children.Vilsack says the increase would also ensure that doctors get paid for treating kids from low-income families.Vilsack says around 40-thousand kids are already covered by the program. Democrats in the Iowa Senate also unveiled more details of their health care agenda Thursday. The plan provides a prescription drug benefit for low income seniors and sets up a trust fund to help the elderly pay for in-home health care. Senator Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City says they want to pay for their plan with money from the state tobacco settlement. Bolkcom says the state money will bring in federal matching dollars.Another part of the plan would make insurance companies cover mental illness and substance abuse treatment. Ames Senator Johnnie Hammond says a study shows that could save the state money.Democrats also joined the governor in calling for an expansion of the program that provides health insurance for children in low-income families. Republican House Majority Leady Christopher Rants says forcing insurance companies to cover substance abuse treatment will raise premiums. Rants is from Sioux City, and says the state needs to address access to health care before expanding insurance coverage.Republicans are also critical of the Democrat plan to leverage more federal dollars to pay for the health care proposals. Senate Majority Leader Stewart Iverson says that money can’t be counted on for the long term.Senator Iverson says the same holds true for the tobacco settlement money. He says republicans would rather spend the tobacco money on one-time projects.
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