Montana State Auditor John Morrison on Tuesday said an initiative to expand SCHIP and Medicaid coverage to as many as 30,000 additional uninsured children will be placed on the state's November ballot, the Missoulian reports.
Morrison said that a sufficient number of registered voters had signed a petition to place the measure on the ballot for the general election. About 37,000 children in the state are uninsured.
The proposed measure would increase the SCHIP income eligibility threshold from families with incomes up to 175% of the federal poverty level to those with incomes up to 250% of the poverty level. The measure also would increase the Medicaid income eligibility limit and would help pay the cost of adding children to their parents' health insurance policies if their incomes are lower than the threshold. In addition, the measure would require the state to launch a campaign to enroll eligible children in the programs through schools, hospitals, public health agencies, youth sports programs and other entities.
Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D), who has not taken a position on the measure, last week said that he told the state budget director to assume the measure would be approved and to include the estimated $20 million cost of the measure in next year's state budget. Schweitzer said, "We're ready to pay for it," adding, "If it does pass, that will be the first priority when the Legislature comes to town. Anything the Legislature was hoping to spend money on comes after paying for" the initiative. Morrison said that expanding SCHIP and Medicaid would generate up to $75 million annually in federal matching funds.
Morrison said that polls have shown broad support for expanding children's health coverage in the state and that he believes the measure will be approved by voters (Dennison, Missoulian, 6/19).