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Legislation to Help ND Families Crushed by Child Healthcare Costs

February 16, 2007

Imagine having to come up with an extra $12,000 a month to pay for a child's medication. That's what one family told North Dakota lawmakers it is costing for their child's intravenous infusions.

The Director of Family Voice of North Dakota, Donene Feist, says their case is only one example of the importance of the "Family Opportunity Act" being proposed in the North Dakota Legislature. Feist explains it would allow middle-income families to buy health care coverage through Medicaid on a sliding fee scale.

"Buying into Medicaid would provide supplemental coverage for these families, to do some gap-filling where private insurance is not picking up the needed costs."

Feist sees many families who could benefit from a change in Medicaid eligibility. They earn "too much" under the current income guidelines, but cannot afford major out-of-pocket medical expenses incurred by caring for a seriously ill or disabled child. Some must file for bankruptcy, Feist says, or take other, drastic measures to deal with the financial burden.

"Some families have even been told to get a divorce in order to qualify for services, you know. The range is pretty broad."

The "Family Opportunity Act" is part of Senate Bill 2326. So far, Feist says she has seen no active opposition to it.

Debbie Aasen/Jamie Folsom, Public News Service - ND