California Children at Risk of Losing Health Care Coverage
At least 55,000 California children enrolled in Children's Health Initiatives in 25 counties could lose health coverage over the next two years as funding continues to deplete, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The programs were created in 2001 with funds from tobacco lawsuit settlements, philanthropic foundations and local private groups and government agencies. Total enrollment is 85,000 children statewide.
However, without an interim funding source for children's health care coverage, the programs are running out of money. At least one county, Solano, already has stopped enrolling children because of low funds.
Meanwhile, California children enrolled in the State Children's Health Insurance Program risk losing coverage as Congress and President Bush remain deadlocked over reauthorizing the program, known as Healthy Families in California (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 11/18).
Bush vetoed a reauthorization bill and has called for a smaller expansion of SCHIP. He also opposes raising tobacco taxes to help fund the program (Kenen, Reuters, 11/16).
As a result of the stalemate, California's Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board, which oversees Healthy Families, will allow the state to create a waiting list and remove some of the 1.1 million children enrolled in the program. Possibly 60,000 California children could lose coverage each month if Congress and Bush cannot agree on providing additional funding for the program.
Health care reform proposals by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and Democratic legislative leaders seek to cover all children, but neither plan would take effect until 2010.
Kim Belshé, secretary of the Health and Human Services Agency, acknowledged that "it does take time to get programs up and running" but did not indicate what efforts the Schwarzenegger administration would undertake to ensure that children do not lose coverage while waiting for a health care plan to take effect.
Meanwhile, Schwarzenegger and Democrats still have to reach a compromise on a health care reform plan (Sacramento Bee, 11/19).
Last week, the Assembly Health Committee approved a proposal (ABX1 1) by Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles) and Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland). The full Assembly is scheduled to vote on the plan Nov. 26 (Gordon, Stateline.org, 11/19).
Even if the plan wins supports from the Legislature, voters would have to approve its funding mechanism for it to take effect, a move that leaves children's health insurance at risk.
Jim Keddy of PICO California, a coalition that lobbies for children's coverage, said that if the ballot measure fails, "there's nothing for kids" because there was no separate legislative effort to provide coverage for children (Sacramento Bee, 11/18).
The conservative Consumer Alliance for a Strong Economy has launched two radio advertisements opposing health care reform plans by Schwarzenegger and Democrats, the Bee's "Capitol Alert" reports.
Steve Maviglio, spokesperson for Núñez, labeled the ads "low-quality and ineffective," but contended "they may very well be the first of many to hit the airwaves in what may shape up to be a yearlong slug fest to pass historic universal health care coverage in California" (Goldmacher, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 11/16).