Budget Cuts Strain Efforts To Enroll Kids in Health Insurance
Funding that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) last month eliminated from the fiscal year 2007-2008 state budget could impair county outreach efforts aimed at enrolling eligible children in public health insurance programs, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
The funds were among the governor's $700 million in line-item vetoes that he offered to win Republican support for the budget (Sheppard, Los Angeles Daily News, 9/13).
Initially, the outreach funds were projected to provide $70 million to 20 high-need counties over three years (Rosenblatt, Los Angeles Times, 9/14).
Health advocacy groups estimate that several of Schwarzenegger's vetoes combined cut about $66 million that would have gone to help enroll about 100,000 children in health care coverage in 2007-2008.
The funds would not have provided coverage but would have paid for advertising campaigns and staff to help low-income families enroll children.
About 447,000 children who are eligible for Medi-Cal or Healthy Families remain uninsured, according to a California Health Interview Survey. Healthy Families is California's version of the State Children's Health Insurance Program.
Not-for-profit health clinics, local county agencies and other outreach programs affected by the funding cuts have been forced to lay off staff that was hired for the outreach initiative, which was announced earlier this year.
The state will cover costs incurred through June 30, but the programs are responsible for any funds spent after July 1, although the veto was not announced until Aug. 24.
Clinic officials argue the outreach efforts are necessary because they serve a non-English-speaking population with limited education about the health care system.
Mike Bowman, spokesperson for the Department of Health Care Services, said, "We remain committed to enrolling" all uninsured children who are eligible for Medi-Cal or Healthy Families (Los Angeles Daily News, 9/13).
H.D. Palmer, Department of Finance spokesperson, said Schwarzenegger's veto leaves $147 million statewide to streamline enrollment and maintain children's coverage. He added that additional funding for Healthy Families is expected to help enroll 64,000 children in California (Los Angeles Times, 9/14).