February 08,2001

Grassley Introduces Legislation for Special Needs Children

WASHINGTON - Joined by an Iowa family, Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley today announced introduction of his legislation to improve health coverage for children with special needs. This legislation is a revision to the bill he championed last year.

"When you're a parent, your main objective is to provide for your child to the best of your ability," Grassley said. "If it takes a 12-hour day in the field or in the factory, that's what you do. Our federal government forces parents to choose between family income and their children's health care. That's a terrible choice, but we'll fix it.

Grassley will introduce the Family Opportunity Act with Sen. Edward Kennedy. Reps. Pete Sessions and Henry Waxman are introducing an identical bill in the House. Last year, the legislation netted 78 bipartisan Senate co-sponsors and 143 bipartisan House sponsors.

Grassley expressed optimism that the measure will achieve success this year, citing the momentum from last year, President Bush's new initiative to serve those with disabilities, and Grassley's new position as chairman of the committee with jurisdiction over Medicaid.

Joining Grassley at a news conference was the family who inspired this legislation. Originally from Red Oak, Iowa, the Arnolds moved to the Baltimore-area to obtain medical care for 11-year-old Adam, who was born with a short thigh bone. Adam's mother, Melissa, has worked hard to obtain promotions but can't accept any more pay raises without jeopardizing Adam's Medicaid coverage. Adam's 18-year-old brother, Daniel, can't work even part-time for fear of pushing the family's income over the Medicaid limit.

Grassley's legislation would allow states to create options for families such as the Arnolds to buy into the Medicaid system while continuing to work. Grassley said parents would pay for Medicaid coverage on a sliding scale. No one would have to become impoverished or stay impoverished to secure Medicaid for their child.

Grassley said Medicaid is critical to the well-being of children with multiple medical needs. It covers a lot of services that these children need, such as physical therapy and medical equipment. Private health plans often are much more limited in what they cover. Many parents can't afford needed services or multiple co-payments out-of-pocket.

"Parents of children with disabilities should have the same opportunities as adults with disabilities," Grassley said. "Everybody wants to use their talents to the fullest potential, and every parent wants to provide as much as possible for his or her children. We should give states the flexibility to provide families with options, without the federal government getting in the way."