New Jersey Governor Jon S. Corzine has announced a new program to increase access to health insurance for children in the state.

The plan would by take advantage of the state’s purchasing power to extend its existing FamilyCare program to children whose family income exceeds current eligibility rules. As many as 15,000 uninsured children may qualify to enroll in this program, state officials estimate. Children would be enrolled in the plan for a monthly fee, starting in early 2008.

Already more than 100,000 N.J. children are enrolled in FamilyCare, and the new “buy-in” plan would make it affordable to more families, Corzine said in announcing the plan during a speech at the Woodbridge shopping mall.

Under the new provision, children in families whose annual family income exceeds the current eligibility limits of 350% of the federal poverty guidelines ($72,275 annual income for a family of 4) can enroll in the program. Covered services include doctor visits, prescription drugs and hospitalization.

Corzine says the program would not require taxpayer funding and will not depend upon State Children’s Health Insurance Program funding. Families would pay monthly premiums of $137 for a family with 1 child; $274 for a family with 2 children, and $411 for a family with 3 or more children.

Under the plan rules, families with more than 1 child must enroll all children, and families must show that their children did not have health care coverage for the previous 6 months.