Gore Unveils Pledge To Expand Child-Health-Insurance Program
Campaigning for support for his 2000 presidential bid, Vice President Al Gore last week proposed dramatically expanding children's access to health insurance.
The Democratic candidate outlined his plan in a Sept. 7 speech in Los Angeles, one of the first announcements from his domestic-policy platform.
His proposal would expand eligibility criteria under the 2-year-old Children's Health Insurance Program, a Clinton administration initiative, to allow more children from low-income families to receive benefits.
About 1.3 million children are now covered under the low-cost health-insurance program, known as CHIP, and Mr. Gore's staff estimates another 1 million would be eligible for free benefits. The campaign did not release an estimate of how much Mr. Gore's plan would cost.
Last month, meanwhile, the Clinton administration stepped up efforts to publicize CHIP because officials said up to 6 million children may be currently eligible but are not enrolled. CHIP covers children from birth to age 18 whose families have low incomes but are ineligible for Medicaid.
"The steps I am proposing today will guarantee access to affordable health coverage for every child in America and will provide more affordable health-care options for millions more adults," Mr. Gore said in Los Angeles. "If you elect me president, I will ensure that, by the year 2005, every single child in our country has full access to fully affordable health coverage."
And if a family did not meet the income requirements, parents could still purchase insurance from the plan, regardless of income.
The initiative would also include incentives for states to identify and enroll children and an intensive outreach campaign. The vice president's announcement was part of a broader health-care initiative that will become a cornerstone of his campaign.
Mr. Gore is considered the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for president. His sole Democratic rival, former Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey, has not outlined his specific policy goals. The leading Republican candidate, Gov. George W. Bush of Texas, made his first major policy address on education Sept. 2. Mr. Bush proposed holding schools more accountable for federal aid, particularly under the $8 billion Title I program. ("Bush Zeroes In on Accountability for Federal K-12 Funds," Sept. 8, 1999.)
Commenting on Mr. Gore's chip proposal, Gregg Haifley, the deputy director of the health division of the Washington-based Children's Defense Fund, said: "While we're disappointed the program hasn't taken off faster than it has, we recognize this is a new program. We appreciate when national political leaders say it's important to cover all uninsured kids."
Mr. Gore's announcement was also hailed by some education groups. Sandra Feldman, the president of the 1 million-member American Federation of Teachers, said the vice president's "priorities are precisely on target."
"America should be a country in which all children have access to affordable health insurance," she said in a written statement.
Vol. 19, Issue 2, Page 24