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N.Y. Bill Mandates Comprehensive Child-Health Care

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New York State will require most health-insurance plans to cover immunizations and well-child visits for children and adolescents, under legislation that is expected to be approved by both the legislature and Gov. Mario M. Cuomo.

The bill, known as the "child health insurance reform plan,'' or CHIRP, would mandate that plans provide the standard schedule of visits and immunizations recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for children up to age 19.

Plans that cover only hospitalization would be exempted.

The Assembly has already passed CHIRP, and the Senate is expected to do so when it returns to session this month.

Although Governor Cuomo vetoed an almost identical bill earlier in the year, he has since pledged his support for the current version of the legislation.

A spokesman for the Governor said that there were "technical problems'' with the earlier version that have been corrected.

Ellie Ward, a co-chairwoman of the Campaign for Children's Health, an advocacy group that has been lobbying for the legislation, said that 60 percent of health-insurance policies in the state do not cover the preventive health-care needs of children. She attributed a 1990 measles epidemic in the state to the lack of sufficient immunizations for young children from low-income families, which often delay the cost of vaccinations until the children enter school.

"Avoiding one case of measles more than pays any additional costs'' generated by the legislative mandate, said Ms. Ward.

After Florida enacted a similar law, most insurers there did not raise premiums to pay for the added costs, she said.

Tennessee Plan Approved

In a separate state health-reform development, Tennessee has received permission from the Clinton Administration to implement a Medicaid-reform plan known as TennCare.

The program, which operates on principles similar to the Administration's proposed "health security act,'' will use Medicaid funds to put Medicaid recipients and the uninsured--about 1.5 million people in Tennessee--into private managed-care plans.

The health plans will be subject to federal approval.

"I appreciate the fact that Washington did not water down TennCare with conditions that would keep us from our goal of providing Tennesseans good health care at a cost we can afford,'' Gov. Ned McWherter said in a statement.

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