by Mark R. PotterRegional EditorAkron -- Approximately 30 people gathered with Gov. Ted Strickland May 16 at the Open M free medical clinic in Akron to discuss health care issues that affect their lives.The local stop was one of around 10 visits Strickland was making throughout the state this past week, getting feedback from residents and attempting to garner support for parts of his budget bill, which he said will help address many health care concerns."My goal is to make sure all of our children have access to affordable health care regardless of the economic circumstances of their family," Strickland said.Already through the Ohio House of Representatives, the Senate is still working to approve the budget, slated to take effect this summer.Strickland said his proposed $52.8 billion two-year budget, will expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program to families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level (currently it is 200 percent). According to information provided by Strickland's office, an estimated 20,000 children in Ohio are above 300 percent of the federal poverty level without health insurance. Keith Dailey, spokesperson for the governor, said his plan also called for Medicaid insurance coverage for children whose parents are at 300 percent above the federal poverty level.Bridgette Springfield of Akron, told the governor she has a son with special needs and while she works and attends school, she can only afford coverage for her children."My children are covered; I myself am not," Springfield said. "I have health bills that I can't afford to pay."Dailey said although families who make up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level may not be poor, he said many parents in that situation may be small business owners who cannot afford to purchase private health insurance for their families or may have a child with a pre-existing condition that they cannot get covered.One guest at the event told Strickland he knew a woman who had to step down from a job promotion to qualify for Medicaid."When I meet with people like you, I feel encouraged," Strickland told the group. "I often talk to people who love their children and want to take care of them, but life circumstances make it impossible."E-mail: mpotter@recordpub.comPhone: 330-688-0088 ext. 3154