Youth health insurance in jeopardy, Casey says; Bush's new budget limits funding to target 'neediest children.

By Kimberly Hefling, The Mornning Call

Just as Pennsylvania plans to expand its government-subsidized health insurance program for children, Sen. Bob Casey Jr. said Tuesday that the president's budget is a potential stumbling block.

Pennsylvania is awaiting federal approval to become the second state to expand its children's health insurance program, with the goal of insuring all children without coverage. Already, it is one of 18 states that insures families earning 235 percent of the federal poverty level — about $47,000 for a family of four.

Under the budget that President Bush sent to Congress on Monday, the funding would be limited to youth at or below 200 percent of poverty, to target resources to the nation's ''neediest children.''

Casey, D-Pa., said the budget contrasts with many states' efforts to cover more children.

''It's a huge problem for the country, and just at a time people are hopeful about Pennsylvania, this proposal by the administration runs counter to that,'' Casey said.

Gov. Ed Rendell last fall signed the bill — dubbed ''Cover All Kids'' — that expanded health care coverage to uninsured children. The new law provides partially subsidized insurance for families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level — about $60,000 for a family of four — and institutes a sliding monthly premium based on ability to pay.