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Tennessee Children's Insurance to Cover Vision, Dental Care

Cover Kids, Tennessee's latest health insurance program for children plans to include dental and vision benefits starting Jan. 1.

The program covers children whose families earn too much to be eligible for Medicaid but too little to manage to pay for private insurance. It already pays for emergency dental and eye treatment, but the new benefits will cover necessary services (OTCBB: BICV) including dental exams and eyeglasses.

The announcement follows President Bush's decision to veto a $35 billion Democrat-backed expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program through which Cover Kids and similar programs are funded. Bush has said he favors a smaller expansion with a greater focus on poor children.

Debate continues in Washington, but no matter what Congress does, Tennessee has sufficient federal and state money to pay for Cover Kids through 2009, a Cover Kids representative has said.

However, in Mississippi, leaders do not know what will take place once the temporary funding that Congress approved stops in mid-November, The Associated Press reported.

Andrea Willis, director of Cover Kids, said, "We're very pleased that we're going to be able to offer a comprehensive package that will include the dental."

Tennessee officials are still trying to get further children signed up for Cover Kids, one of a group of new state health insurance plans introduced this year after cuts in the TennCare health insurance program. There are presently about 13,000 children registered in Cover Kids and an estimated 127,000 children in the state who do not have health insurance.

Gov. Phil Bredesen said, "It's one of these frustrating things, where you know, all the agonies we went through with TennCare, there's a very comprehensive, completely free program for the most deserving people in Tennessee, the children and you're having trouble getting people signed up for it. But that will carry on improving in the months ahead."

Cover Kids is not entirely free of charge. Families pay modest premiums and co-payments.



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