In 2010, Alaska Governor Sean Parnell refused to approve an expansion of Denali KidCare, a program that provides health care for low-income pregnant women and children, even though a $1 million expansion paid for by the state would have resulted in nearly twice that much federal funding in return. Denali KidCare covers approximately 8,000 kids in need in Alaska, and with the matching funds, an expansion could have resulted in coverage of an additional 1,277 children and 225 pregnant women.
Moreover, an estimated 18,000 children across the state are uninsured but currently are ineligible under current state criteria. According to the Juneau Empire, Sen. Bettye Davis is proposing that the state expand eligibility from 175 percent of poverty level to 200 percent — but only for those age 12 and under. (The average across all states for eligibility is 241 percent of the federal poverty line.)
Why the age limit and all the wrangling? Why almost two years later is the state still fighting over expanding KidCare?
Because, according to Davis, it is the only way “to avoid the pregnancy and abortion concerns.”
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This situation underscores the hoops Alaska lawmakers must jump through in order to accommodate their governor’s zealous anti-choice stance. Governor Parnell rejected federal matching funds because he was afraid money from the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) could be used to cover abortions in Alaska. He claimed “hundreds of abortions” were funded by the program, a claim the Alaska Department of Health said can’t be completely confirmed. Alaska’s own state children’s health insurance program allows for funding of “medically-necessary abortion” due to a Supreme Court ruling stating that abortion must be covered if other pregnancy-related services are covered. So the governor is rejecting funds that could expand health care in his state based on fear of funding a legal medical intervention his own state allows.
So now, program eligibility is being re-written to create exclusions centered around the arrival of puberty, so the governor doesn’t need to worry about money possibly being used for an abortion, even though the abortion exception is already so narrow it only applies to cases to very few cases. Teenagers of both sexes, as well as pregnant women, are being excluded from accessible primary health care simply to appease anti-choice zealotry.
Why not go a step further, and allow all teen boys, and all teen girls who haven’t yet begun to menstruate, to be able to apply for KidCare, too? Perhaps girls could be asked to prove whether they are or aren’t having their periods yet in order to receive medical assistance?
It appears not to bother Governor Parnell that the health and lives of born children living in his state are being held hostage to political hysteria.