CALIFORNIA: GOVERNOR SIGNS CHILDREN’S HEALTH PLAN
"Just six weeks after he proposed a major new healthThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
initiative for children, Gov. Pete Wilson [R] signed the slightly
modified plan into law" yesterday, Los Angeles Times reports.
The $500-million Healthy Families program "will offer subsidized
health insurance to more than 580,000 California children whose
families earn too much money to qualify for Medi-Cal but not
enough to afford their own plans or to be covered by an
employer." The plan, which takes advantage of federal Kiddiecare
funds made available under the Balanced Budget Act, amounts to
the largest medical program in California since Medi-Cal. It
will begin next summer, perhaps as early as June.
The new health program, which will cost the state $175
million, will provide coverage "to the estimated 580,000 children
whose household income is between 100% and 200% of the poverty
level." Healthy Families will "offer subsidized insurance
through private carriers who are organized into regional pools
created by the state." Families enrolled in the program will
"pay a monthly premium of between $7 and $27 per child depending
on their income and the plan they choose." Outpatient doctor
visits will require a $5 copayment.
THE REST OF THE CHILDREN
Los Angeles Times notes that there are currently around 1.6
million California children under age 18 who are uninsured. The
Healthy Families program will extend insurance to about a third
of them, and another third are eligible for, but not enrolled in,
Medi-Cal. To capture the Medi-Cal eligible children not
currently enrolled in the program, Wilson signed a separate bill
yesterday that is designed to boost "Medi-Cal enrollment by
significantly streamlining the application process and launching
an outreach effort." Times reports that about half a million
uninsured children in California are ineligible for either
Healthy Families or Medi-Cal. But according to officials, these
children, who are from families earning more than 200% of the
federal poverty level, can afford to purchase private health
Some Democrats had objected to the Healthy Families program,
saying that the Medi-Cal program should simply be expanded to
include more residents. However, Wilson argued that Medi-Cal is
"already an overbureaucratic government mess" (Lesher, 10/3).
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Wilson spokesperson
Lisa Kalustian said that "setting up a system of private health
insurance assures that market forces will keep tabs on medical
costs and also save time." Wilson said, "Low income families
will have the same flexibility in choosing a health plan that
their fellow Californians enjoy. And they won't suffer from the
welfare stigma that's often associated with the state's Medi-Cal
program" (Russell, 10/3).