CAHP: Group Moves to Curb State’s Growing Number of Uninsured
With California's growing ranks of uninsured residents swelling to 7.3 million, health coverage has become the number one topic of concern among California legislators, the East Bay Business Times reports. The California Association of Health Plans is leading the charge to curb the rise. The group's president Walter Zelman said, "I think there are some things (we can do), but we have to be politically and economically realistic." Admitting that he represents an industry that would benefit financially from such action, Zelman said, "I can't deny we represent an industry that insures people. ... [But] I have to think our advocacy for people having health care isn't seen as self-serving. It's clearly our state's biggest health care crisis." CAHP hopes to work with schools and community groups to spread the word on available governmental programs, especially those for children. Zelman said, "There are over a million children in California that are eligible [for Healthy Families], but are not enrolled." Noting that the federal government covers two-thirds of the program's costs, he added that if California "isn't tapping into its share, then the money is going to other states."
Economy to Blame?
The number of people without insurance in California keeps rising despite a booming economy. Part of that problem is because the small businesses "propelling California's economy" are often the ones that fail to offer health coverage to workers. Dick Callahan, CEO of Callahan & Kosich Insurance Services, said that providing health coverage is more affordable than most think. One plan in the state House is "Small Employer Tax Credits". Supported by CAHP, it would offer a tax credit of $65 a month to firms with fewer than 25 employees, offering insurance to workers 250% below the federal poverty line. Assemblywoman Lynne Leach (R-Walnut Creek) says she expects "health insurance to dominate the Legislature's agenda this year." She added, "I suspect what we will see is more innovative programs" (Valcke, 3/13).