Senate OKs Healthy Kids for young adults
CONCORD - The legislative proposal to let 19- to 25-year-olds obtain health care coverage from the taxpayer-subsidized Healthy Kids program won overwhelming support in the State Senate Wednesday. State Sen. Kathy Sgambati, D-Tilton, stressed these young adults who are living on their own without health care through the insurance plans of their parents would have to pay a monthly premium to join Healthy Kids. The premium is expected to cost less than $200 per month or $2,400 a year. "These funds are coming from these kids' pockets. There are no state funds and no federal funds,'' Sgambati said. The Senate passed the bill, 19-4, with a majority of Republicans on board, as well as all 14 Senate Democrats. The four GOP senators opposed were Derry Sen. Robert Letourneau, Salem Sen. Michael Downing, Manchester Sen. Ted Gatsas and Raymond Sen. Jack Barnes. BILL AT A GLANCE: Gatsas charged that once this pool of young adults is covered, taxpayer-paid premiums for the 7,400 children already enrolled in Healthy Kids would rise. "Over time, this is going to cost the state more money,'' Gatsas said. These young adults can make up to $43,320 a year and still qualify. Sgambati said she believes it also would permit two married young adults to join Healthy Kids as long as together they don't make more than the income limit. "I disagree that this is going to cost the state money,'' Sgambati said. "The other advantage is that doctors and hospitals now have paying customers.'' Gov. John Lynch supports the bill. Last year, Lynch signed a law requiring insurance companies to let young adults through age 25 stay on the health insurance plans of their parents. Sgambati said program rules would set a waiting period prior to coverage to remove any incentive for business owners to drop coverage for young workers. The bargaining power of the Healthy Kids group and provider discounts drives the cost much lower than what it is for a young adult to get health care on their own, she added. Healthy Kids is a nonprofit group that provides access to low-cost and free health coverage for uninsured children and teens. A Healthy Kids spokesperson testified last week that there are 22,000 young adults in the target ages of this bill without health coverage.