Late this spring, the Alaska legislature overwhelmingly
passed an expansion of Denali KidCare (Alaska’s CHIP program), from 175% to
200% of the FPL, a policy that Governor Parnell had indicated support for
earlier this year, but switched directions on last week. Currently, Alaska is one of only three
states that still doesn’t cover children at or above 200% of the FPL, the
others being Idaho and North Dakota. (Oklahoma is currently at 185% but has had
a state-approved expansion in the works for a while now).
The Alaska Legislature’s action was actually a
restoration of Alaska’s CHIP program.
Until 2003, Denali KidCare had been available to children in families
with incomes up to 200% of the FPL.
In 2003, Alaska policymakers decided to cut eligibility and set it at
175% of the 2003 federal poverty level guidelines. That policy resulted in a declining eligibility level each
year as the federal poverty level increased. In 2007, this meant that the state was only covering
children up to 154% of the 2007 FPL.
At this point in 2007, the legislature removed the reference to the 2003
poverty level guidelines so that kids were eligible up to 175% of the current
year’s federal poverty level. Since that time, there have been numerous
attempts to restore the income eligibility for Denali KidCare to its original
levels – efforts which had looked to be very promising this year. The expansion
was expected to cover an additional 1,000 children and was sent to the Governor
for his signature weeks ago, however, no action was taken until last week when
he reversed himself and vetoed the expansion along with a number of other
The outcry against the Governor’s veto has been strong and
widespread – particularly among state legislators. We’ll see in the coming days if there is any effort to
override his veto and put Alaska back to where it was prior to 2003 and in line
with the 47 other states offering coverage to children at or above 200% of the