Funding Shortfalls Could Result in Waiting Lists for Healthy Kids Programs in Fresno, Tulare Counties; Other Counties Discuss Plans To Expand Coverage for Children
Officials of programs working to expand health care coverage for children in Fresno and Tulare counties plan to begin enrollment in November for new health insurance programs but say that funding shortfalls could result in waiting lists for the programs, the Fresno Bee reports.
Children younger than 19 years in families whose annual incomes do not exceed 300% of the federal poverty level can enroll in the new program, called Healthy Kids, beginning in November. As many as 15,300 children in the two counties, including undocumented immigrant children, will be eligible for the program.
According to the Bee, about two-thirds of eligible children also will be eligible for other state programs such as Medi-Cal and Healthy Families. Healthy Kids coverage for children under age six will be funded by First Five using funds from a 50-cent per package tax on tobacco products that voters approved in 1998. The funds can be used only for programs for children ages five and younger.
In Fresno County, for example, Healthy Kids officials estimate that 5,910 children ages 6 to 18 will be eligible for coverage through the program and expect 2,364 to enroll in the program during its first year. Program officials estimate the cost of coverage at about $1.977 million, but currently have secured about $332,000 in possible grants for coverage for children more than five years old.
Catherine Quinn -- executive director of the California Health Collaborative, which is administering Fresno's Healthy Kids program -- said that "there's a reasonable likelihood we will have to suspend enrollment for that age group before the end of the first 12 months."
In Tulare County, between 2,200 and 2,500 children currently are waiting to enroll in the county's Healthy Kids program, about 73% of whom are more than five years old.
Brooke Frost, manager of the Children's Health Initiative in Tulare County, said she anticipates "that in the first year we will have kids on a waiting list" (Anderson, Fresno Bee, 7/27).
Kings County officials last week held a public forum hosted by First 5 Kings County to discuss strategies to enroll all uninsured children in the county in health plans, the Hanford Sentinel reports. Officials said Kings County will have to collaborate with other counties to draw more specialty care providers to the area, as well as increase outreach, enrollment, retention and fundraising efforts.
Officials believe nearly 75% of the county's estimated 4,000 uninsured children younger than age 18 are eligible for Medi-Cal or Healthy Families.
Officials will detail the program's budget when it redefines the goal of its child health initiative during strategic planning meetings in September (Yamashita, Hanford Sentinel, 7/26).
Del Norte County officials met last week to discuss fundraising and obtaining grants from foundations to fund the Children's Health Initiative to provide health insurance to the county's estimated 750 uninsured children, the Eureka Times-Standard reports.
Families whose annual incomes do not exceed 300% of the federal poverty level would be eligible to enroll in the plan, but county officials estimate that two-thirds of eligible children also are eligible for Medi-Cal or Healthy Families.
County officials also discussed recruitment and retention plans for doctors in the county (Watson Arthurs, Eureka Times-Standard, 7/26).