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GOV. CASEY RENEWS CALL FOR HEALTH CARE PLAN

 GOV. CASEY RENEWS CALL FOR HEALTH CARE PLAN
 PITTSBURGH, Jan. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Gov. Robert P. Casey visited


Mercy Hospital here today to renew and reinforce his call for adequate, affordable and accessible health care for Pennsylvania's children.
 "We must protect the most vulnerable among us and that's why I have proposed health coverage for uninsured Pennsylvania children under the age of 6," Casey said. "These are children from families that aren't poor enough to qualify for medical assistance and aren't well off enough to pay for insurance on their own."
 The governor proposed his new health insurance plan in his State of the Commonwealth address to the General Assembly on Jan. 22.
 "We are pleased at the governor's initiative and support the overall concept of his plan," said Sister Joanne Marie Andiorio, president and chief executive officer of Mercy Hospital. "He has taken a bold step to create a plan for health care which ultimately will put children in a larger context -- that of the family and the mother -- and not something piecemeal."
 The governor's plan would offer voluntary health coverage for up to 107,000 uninsured young children from families with annual incomes of up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or $40,200 for a family of four.
 The insurance program would cover outpatient services, doctor's visits, immunizations, diagnostic services, prescriptions, dental and eye care and up to 90 days of hospitalization.
 Under the governor's plan, families would pay premiums based on a sliding fee scale. For example, the annual cost per child to a family of four earning $24,000 would be $93; a family of four earning $40,200 would pay an annual premium of $325.50 per child.
 The insurance plan would be funded through a 2-cent increase in the cigarette tax that was enacted last year. Collections of the tax, which will begin July 1, will generate $20 million each fiscal year.
 Casey noted that lack of health coverage is just part of the health care problem for many Pennsylvanians who live in areas with shortages of primary care physicians.
 To solve this problem, the governor has recommended an education grant program to encourage state-funded medical schools to increase the supply of primary care physicians.
 Casey said he has directed the state Health Department to develop a health personnel strategy for Pennsylvania, including reviewing the use of scholarships, college loan forgiveness, and other efforts to attract medical personnel to areas of the commonwealth where such professionals are in short supply.
 Another part of the governor's proposal involves lifting the income eligibility criteria, eventually enabling another 49,000 women and infants to qualify for medical assistance.
 Under current policy, pregnant women and children are eligible for medical assistance if family income is at 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or $17,822 for a family of four. The governor's plan would expand that eligibility to 185 percent of the federal poverty level, or $24,790 for a family of four.
 Federal matching funds are available to the state to serve individuals that would be served as the result of the changed eligibility.
 Another effort will involve reaching out to children up to the age of 18 who qualify for medical assistance but who are not enrolled in the program.
 The state's costs for enrolling additional eligible children in the medical assistance program and expanding the eligibility for pregnant women and children would come from re-allocation of other Department of Public Welfare funds.
 Other aspects of the governor's health care plan include:
 -- Expanding managed care programs in which primary care doctors act as "gatekeepers" to other services patients need and ensure appropriate health care referrals.
 -- Seeking expanded authority for the Department of Public Welfare to find absentee parents who hold jobs with good benefits and require them to pick up health care coverage for their neglected children.
 -- Adopting a "Health Care Bill of Rights" to protect health insurance policyholders against unfair practices.
 -- Making health care more accessible in the hardest-hit communities by developing a pilot program for establishing primary care clinics in neighborhood schools.
 -- Working for enactment of family leave legislation so that parents can take care of their own newborn babies, newly adopted infants or seriously ill family members without fear of losing their jobs.
 -- Encouraging more adults to become adoptive parents to give children without families a chance to grow up in caring homes and cut the financial drain foster care places on public finances.
 The governor's health care proposal was developed based on recommendations from the Governor's Cabinet-Level Working Group on Health Care, a panel he created specifically to address this issue.
 /delval/
 -0- 1/30/92
 /CONTACT: Susan Woods of Commonwealth News Bureau, 717-783-1116/ CO: Gov. Robert P. Casey ST: Pennsylvania IN: HEA SU:


DM -- PG014 -- 5346 01/30/92 14:49 EST
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Date:Jan 30, 1992
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