HEALTHY FAMILIES: Application Process Streamlined, Outreach To Be Enhanced
In response to mounting criticism that several barriers are discouraging the working poor from registering for Healthy Families, state officials announced yesterday they will streamline the application's length and step-up community outreach. State health officials also said they had received confirmation from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service that Healthy Families enrollment would not be used against "other family members applying for citizenship," a concern believed to have deterred many Latinos from enrolling their children. Kim Belshe, director of state health services, "said enrollment of Latino children is the state's 'highest priority'" and unveiled a "draft proposal" with the following provisions:
- Reduce the Healthy Families application from 12 to 3 pages and the Medi-Cal application from 10 to 5 pages.
- Double to $50 the fee paid to assistants who help applicants register, and provide the workers with Spanish language training.
- Allow applicants to pay the first month's premium with a personal check in addition to a money order or cashier's check.
- Coordinate outreach efforts with school officials in neighborhoods with high concentrations of eligible children.
- Target the Latino print media to supplement "radio, television and billboard campaigns."
- Offer application assistance over the telephone.
Not Far Enough...
Given the state's abysmal enrollment rate so far -- only about 20,000 of 400,000 eligible children to date -- some critics "welcomed the reform" but felt it did not go far enough. Lourdes Rivera of the National Health Law Program said "the state is not relying enough on the expertise of community-based organizations in signing up applicants." Additionally, she said "Healthy Families and Medi-Cal are not meshing well." She and other critics believe the state should calculate which programs families are eligible for, rather than making families "sort through the packet and calculate for themselves." Dawn Harris, CEO of Managed Care Connection, said "there needs to be more positive outreach efforts to let people know what [Healthy Families] is, without the stigma" associated with Medi-Cal (Marquis, Los Angeles Times, 10/7). Click here for previous California Healthline coverage of Healthy Families.