Bush tightens rules for kids’ insurance program

WASHINGTON Many children who attempt to enroll in a popular children’s health insurance program will have to be uninsured for at least a year before they’ll be allowed to participate, the Bush administration has informed state health officials.

The administration has repeatedly voiced concerns that some states were expanding their Children’s Health Insurance Programs to the point that families were dropping private coverage for public coverage. Its latest directive is designed to prevent such crowding out from occurring.

In a letter to state health officials, Dennis Smith, the administration’s point man for the SCHIP program, laid out certain criteria that states much meet before they expand insurance coverage to those families above 250 percent of the poverty level or $42,900 for a family of three.

For example, states must establish that a child has been without insurance for a minimum of one year before the child can get coverage through SCHIP. States will also have to assure the federal government that at least 95 percent of the children eligible for the program or for Medicaid are enrolled in either of those two programs.

Minnesota: Last bridge victim

The remains of the last person missing after a Minneapolis bridge collapsed into the Mississippi River nearly three weeks ago have been found, authorities said Monday, bringing the official death toll to 13. Gregory Jolstad, nicknamed “Jolly,” was on the construction crew that was resurfacing the bridge when it fell Aug. 1 during the evening rush hour.

Texas: Shuttle gets OK to land

With the last bit of shuttle imagery analyzed, NASA cleared Endeavour on Monday for its return to Earth, bringing the spaceship home a day early because of hurricane worries that later evaporated. Endeavour is aiming for a touchdown late this morning, Pacific time, in Houston.

Wisconsin: Storms pound Midwest

Relentless thunderstorms pounded parts of the Midwest and the Plains on Monday, causing mudslides, washing out bridges and flooding towns. At least 12 people have died since the weekend. Remnants of Tropical Storm Erin dumped heavy rain in southwest Missouri on Monday. Over the weekend in Oklahoma, the same system swamped buildings, led to dozens of water rescues and left six dead. Storms brought wind gusts up to 82 mph and golf-ball size hail to Lincoln, Neb., on Monday evening.

D.C.: Cheney has spy documents

Vice President Dick Cheney’s office acknowledged for the first time Monday that it has dozens of documents related to the administration’s warrantless surveillance program, but it signaled that it will resist efforts by congressional Democrats to obtain them. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Monday that he will pursue contempt proceedings against administration officials if the documents are not produced.

Montana: Fire threatens homes

Gusty winds stirred up new trouble for firefighters working to corral a wildfire burning east of Billings on Monday, a day after crews chased flames from the doorsteps of dozens of homes. The fire has burned an estimated 750 acres, or just more than 1 square mile, and led to evacuation orders for about 300 homes.

Maryland: Abu Ghraib charges

A military judge at Fort Meade on Monday dismissed two of the most serious charges against the only officer accused of abusing detainees at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison after an investigator acknowledged he failed to read the defendant his rights. Army Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, 51, of Fredericksburg, Va., is the last of 12 Abu Ghraib defendants to be court-martialed.

N.C.: Billy Graham’s condition

Evangelist Billy Graham, 88, experienced a second episode of intestinal bleeding but remained in fair condition Monday at an Asheville hospital near his home, a hospital spokeswoman said. Doctors are performing tests to find the source of the bleeding, she said.

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