4 Dems fight for KidCare

Posted: Wednesday, June 09, 2010

JUNEAU - Four Democratic state senators are seeking a second chance for vetoed health insurance legislation, even though Gov. Sean Parnell says he won't heed the legislators' call for a special session to reconsider the measure.

The Republican governor said last week when he vetoed the legislation that he did so because he learned the program for low-income families pays for abortions. His spokeswoman said Tuesday he would not call a special session on the issue.

The bill would have raised the qualifying income eligibility standard from 175 percent to 200 percent of the federal poverty line; by one estimate, it would have covered an additional 218 pregnant women and 1,277 children.

State Sens. Hollis French, Bettye Davis, Johnny Ellis and Bill Wielechowski said the veto will hurt families.

"We worked hard for that bill, for Alaska's children," said Davis, a leader behind the bill's push. "He needs to correct his terrible decision."

According to the state Department of Health and Social Services, 664 individuals on the program, known as Denali KidCare, received "abortion-related services" in 2009.

Abortion-related services could include counseling, ultrasounds, doctor visits or other services not resulting in abortions, spokeswoman Cathy Stadem said. Officials were going through records to determine abortions took place, she added.

Parnell last week didn't specify how much of the expanded program would have paid for abortions but said "there are hundreds of abortions being paid for by these funds."

Davis said at the time that information she had received from the department indicated the number of abortions paid by the program was "in the teens."

French, who is running for governor, said he has asked Senate President Gary Stevens to poll the state Senate to see if there's interest among lawmakers to call themselves back and enough strength to override a veto. The Senate has a bipartisan ruling majority.

Stevens said he sent messages to all 20 senators and is hoping to have a good read on their thinking by week's end. At this point, though, he said it seems "unlikely" there will be overwhelming support among senators to call lawmakers back for this.

Stevens, a Kodiak Republican, said he personally supports Parnell's reasoning and does not favor a special session on this issue.



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