Washington follows VT lead on child health care expansion

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(Host) Congressman Peter Welch says Washington is following Vermont’s lead by expanding a health care program for children.

Welch supported legislation that provides coverage to an additional 5 million low income children around the country.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) While much of the bill focuses on health care for children, Welch says it also benefits seniors.

That’s because the legislation provides free coverage without deductibles or co-pays for some preventative health care under Medicare

It also blocks a cut in Medicare reimbursements for physicians.

(Welch) "One of the significant things about this legislation is that for once we brought young people – kids – and seniors together, instead of just isolating them off. And I thought that was the right step. We basically have to understand that we’re all in it, and everybody has to pay."

(Dillon) Paul Harrington is the executive vice president of the Vermont Medical Society. He says the Medicare cuts would be tough for Vermont doctors and their patients.

(Harrington) "Vermont physicians, absent this legislation passing and being signed into law will face an 11.7% cut in their Medicare payments next year, threatening Vermont’s senior access to health care services because Vermont physicians won’t be able to stay in business with a cut of that magnitude."

(Dillon) For children, the bill expands coverage to reach an additional 5 million kids. It also provides money for programs to reach families who aren’t using the program.

Vermont already covers low income children through the Dr. Dynasaur program. And Welch says the legislation is an example of Congress catching up to what some states are already doing.

(Welch) "This has not been on the agenda down in Washington. So a lot of what’s happening that I’m seeing, some of these things we’ve been proud of in Vermont, and the leadership that Vermont has provided, Washington is starting to take it up."

(Dillon) The legislation now goes to a House-Senate conference committee. President Bush has threatened to veto the bill because it expands government-funded health care.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon.

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