WA getting $17.6M in federal health money for uninsured children


by DREW MIKKELSEN / KING 5 News and Associated Press

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Posted on December 27, 2010 at 3:40 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

OLYMPIA, Wash. -  Washington state is getting $17.6 million from the federal government as a bonus for work done to boost enrollment of uninsured children covered under Medicaid.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday it awarded $206 million to 15 states. Alabama received the highest award, at nearly $55 million. The money is part of a joint state and federal program signed by President Barack Obama in 2009.

The announcement comes just two weeks after Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed a budget that would eliminate health coverage for thousands of children who could be in the country illegally.

“It’s very good news,” said Jon Gould, Deputy Director of the Children’s Alliance.

Gould said as many as 27,000 children were going to be cut off from the state’s “Apple Health for Kids” program under the Governor’s proposed budget for next year.

Gould said the state was awarded the money because of the program’s efficiency and the “high caseload” of patients served. Approximately 718,000 children receive free or reduced health care under the program.

Melissa Palo, a mother of four from Olympia, does not know what her family would do without help from the government for health care.

“If they cut us off,” said Palo, “we probably wouldn’t be able to go to the doctor. When they [her children] got sick, we would have to ask friends and family for help to pay for visits.”

Her children likely would have survived the first round of proposed cuts. The 27,000 impacted by the Governor’s proposed budget are children who do not qualify for federal assistance because of their immigration status.

Other states receiving the bonuses are: Alaska, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, and Wisconsin.