Proposal Would Require Utah Children to Have Health Insurance

Proposal Would Require Utah Children to Have Health Insurance

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah's children would be required to have health insurance under a plan being floated by Gov. Jon Huntsman's top health advisers.

Huntsman hasn't endorsed the plan, but Utah Health Department Director David Sundwall has been meeting with Republican legislative leaders to sell the plan.

Sundwall said he's gotten a good reception, but acknowledges that government mandates are a tough sell in Utah.

"The problem with mandates is, how do you enforce them? What's the penalty? Are we going to throw parents in jail for refusing to insure their children? I don't think so," said Sundwall on Friday, after unveiling pieces of the plan during a panel discussion at an anti-poverty conference.

Huntsman has ordered a working group to come up with a plan to cut the number of Utahns without health insurance in half by 2010.

The group decided to focus on insuring children and helping small business owners and their workers afford coverage.

Conservative health department estimates put the state's uninsured population at 292,800. The U.S. Census reports a higher figure at 420,000, or 16.6 percent of the population.

While Sundwall revealed part of the plan Friday, details are still scarce.

The first step, he said, would be to require that children entitled to Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program be enrolled.

Doing so would add 52,000 of the 71,000 children under 18 thought to be uninsured.

For middle- and higher-income families, Utah would look to the private insurance industry to create options, Sundwall said. The state might also allow families to buy into Children's Health Insurance Program at the full premium cost, he said.

Coverage would be mandatory for children from birth to age 18. But Sundwall said "we're considering extending the requirement" to include 19- to 26-year-olds.

The price tag on the plan is unknown. Huntsman has previously pegged the price at between $22 million and $25 million.


Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune,

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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