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Plus for Kids

Springfield, MO Missouri'sprogram that provides health insurance to uninsured kids has been extended...It was first implemented in September, 1998. Governor Bob Holden signed the re-authorization bill into law earlier this week and it has aspecial provision that allows it to take effect immediately. KSMU's MissyShelton has more on the MC Plus for Kids program and the story of one woman whose children have benefited from it.

Christina Kolze says her young son and daughter lost their health insurance when she and her husband divorced. She says that could've led to serious financial problems when her children went through a series of illnesses.

But after hearing about the m-c plus for kids program from the local family services office, she signed up and received help'it came just in time for her son who suffered from re-current ear infections and tonsillitis and needed his adenoids and tonsils removed.

Kolze says the m-c plus program enabled her son to get the surgery he needed free of charge. She says without the program, it's doubtful he could've started school.

M-C plus administrators credit the program with reducing school absences by 29 percent, helping provide medical care to children like Christina Kolze's son so they can attend school.

Mari Lynn Knipp is the program director of M-C plus. She says the program provides qualifying children with preventative care, something that cuts back on the number of school days missed.

The M-C plus program is designed to help working families that make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but can't access private insurance.

Families qualify for one of three income levels. The group with the lowest income receives free medical care, the next highest income group is responsible for a co-pay with each doctor's visit and the top tier of enrollees must pay a premium and co-pays.

It's the inclusion of families in the highest income bracket that has troubled some lawmakers.

Opposition to the program comes from those who say giving benefits to families with higher incomes makes fewer services available to those in the lower brackets.

Knipp answers those criticisms.

This past legislative session, Missouri lawmakers voted to extend the program through July first, 2007. Governor Bob Holden signed the bill into law and it takes effect immediately. Seventy percent of the cost of the program comes from the federal government with the state paying the rest'it's a cost to the state of about 24 dollars per month per child. There are about 78 thousand children enrolled in the program.