Coalition Announces Plans To Expand Children’s Health Coverage in Los Angeles County
A coalition of health care providers on Tuesday will announce plans to expand health coverage to an additional 150,000 Los Angeles County youths as part of a $112 million program called the Children's Health Initiative, the Los Angeles Times reports. The California Endowment, the L.A. Care Health Plan, the county Department of Health Services and other public and private organizations are collaborating on the effort, which seeks to enroll about 90,000 children in already existing public health insurance programs and another 60,000 children in a new county health insurance program. To date, Blue Shield of California, the California Community Foundation, Kaiser Permanente and others have contributed about $88 million to the effort, according to the Times. Program officials in April began enrolling children ages 18 and younger.
The new program is targeted at children who generally do not qualify for traditional public health insurance programs because of their immigration status or income level. It will provide coverage to children in families with annual incomes up to 300% of the federal poverty level, or $56,550 for a family of four. Parents will be required to pay a fee based on income level. Forty community organizations will help enroll eligible children in the initiative, which expands upon the county's Healthy Kids health insurance program. Currently, the county Healthy Kids program covers about 3,700 children ages five and younger. California Endowment President Robert Ross said, "We're hoping for a kind of wow effect." He added, "[If] policymakers will conclude that ... Los Angeles County can do this, there may be a strong likelihood that we can do it statewide" (Rivera, Los Angeles Times, 6/22).
The Children's Health Initiative in part is intended to "twist government's arm into insuring children statewide for the long term" and to "keep California from squandering federal health care dollars in the future," a Los Angeles Times editorial states. Although the initiative could be seen as "merely a way to boost insurers' businesses in the future," insuring children is a "highly desirable goal, no matter how it happens," and the benefits of the program "are hard to ignore," the editorial states. The editorial concludes that the new program should "pressur[e] lawmakers to at least begin addressing long-term solutions" (Los Angeles Times, 6/22).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.