HEALTHY FAMILIES: Complex Forms, Stigma Hinder Enrollment
Noting that more than two million California children lack health coverage, a San Francisco Chronicle editorial blames the state's "appalling" Healthy Families enrollment record on a number of hurdles, including the complex application forms. Although the state has reduced the size of the program's application form from 16 to four pages, the editorial argues that it is "still so difficult that Contra Costa County spends more than $1 million in state, federal and foundations funding to hire outreach workers to help parents fill out forms for the state-supported health care." While some officials argue that they use the enrollment forms "to distinguish between the 'deserving' poor and those who would unfairly request coverage," the editorial maintains that there is "no good reason for enrollment forms to be so complicated." Another barrier to enrollment is the confusion surrounding eligibility, the editorial maintains. Referring to a national survey that found that three out of five eligible parents mistakenly believe their children are ineligible for state-administered health care programs, the editorial argues that Healthy Families actually is "meant for those with moderate means," as a family of four with an infant and a yearly income of $34,100 qualifies. Contributing to enrollment problems, the editorial asserts, is the fact that some undocumented immigrants also fail to realize that their children qualify. California's high number of uninsured children also stems from the stigma attached to "welfare," the editorial notes, as "pride sometimes prevents [parents] from seeking free coverage available to their kids." While the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation this week is prepared to launch a three-year, $26 million educational campaign targeting eligible parents, the editorial asserts that if the state government was truly committed to care for children, such a privately funded campaign would be "unnecessary." In a society that "has turned 'entitlement' into a dirty word," the editorial concludes that the "simplest benefit -- health care for children -- is poorly advertised, stigmatized as welfare and difficult to obtain" (8/13).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.