NEW YORK (CNN) -- First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton is once again proposing a major health-care initiative.
Clinton, the Democratic candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in New York, called Tuesday for expansion of the Children's Health Insurance Program, a government-subsidized, health-insurance plan for lower- and middle-income Americans. Started in 1997, the federally funded program known as "CHIP" is run by states.
The program offers health insurance to families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to buy their own insurance.
The income ceiling on CHIP eligibility is $31,000 per year for a family of four, or 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
Clinton, speaking at New York Presbyterian Hospital, proposed raising the ceiling to $51,000 per year, or 300 percent of the poverty level.
Program serves more than 2.5 million children
In the early 1990s, Clinton oversaw a sweeping effort to reform many of the nation's health-care policies. Engineered with the blessings of her husband, President Bill Clinton, many of Clinton's proposals were greeted with strong opposition by members of Congress and the health-care industry.
According to the plan announced Tuesday, expansion of CHIP would make an additional 1.8 million children eligible for health insurance at a cost of $10 billion over 10 years.
CHIP currently provides insurance to more than 2.5 million American children, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Overall, an estimated 11 million American children, including 700,000 in New York, lack health insurance.
Besides broadening CHIP's income eligibility, Clinton proposed opening the plan to some adults by offering subsidized coverage to 5.3 million parents, including 480,000 New Yorkers who earn less than 300 percent of the poverty level.
That expansion would cost about $86 billion over 10 years.
"I will make it the first order of business to go to the Senate floor with a plan to make it possible for every American to have affordable health care," she said.
Last week, President Clinton told the nation's governors he hoped to expand CHIP before leaving office.
Opponent questions program financing
Clinton's opponent, Rep. Rick Lazio, R-New York, was quick to criticize the plan. In a written statement, Lazio campaign manager Bill Dal Col said the first lady had not adequately explained how she would finance it.
Further, Dal Col said, the Clinton administration had underpaid its share of the cost for New York's program.
"Where has all of Hillary Clinton's influence been in ensuring New York children get their fair share of the pie?" Dal Col asked.