HEALTHY FAMILIES: Feinstein And Harman Introduce Bill To Ensure Vaccine Coverage
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) joined state Rep. Jane Harman (D-Torrance) yesterday in introducing legislation to ensure that more than half a million California children will not lose access to free vaccinations under the state's Healthy Families program. California utilized an option under the federal Children's Health Insurance Program to offer coverage to children in low-income families through a private insurer rather than through Medi-Cal. This decision, however, makes Healthy Families participants ineligible for free vaccines because the 1993 Vaccines for Children law covers only persons on Medicaid, the uninsured or American Indians/Native Alaskans. The Health Care Financing Administration officially ruled in March that Healthy Families participants would not qualify for vaccines under the program (see California Healthline, 3/18).
To The Rescue!
The Feinstein/Harman legislation would amend the 1993 law to ensure that low-income children covered by a privately administered state CHIP initiative could still receive free vaccinations. Harman said, "Because of a technicality in federal law, 580,000 needy children in California stand to lose a crucial preventive health benefit. This makes no sense. Congress did not pass a law ... so that it could deny [children's] immunizations. Federal policy needs to help states help their children -- not hinder them." Feinstein added, "I have been in cities where the children still die from measles outbreaks, where cases of tuberculosis run rampant, and where lives are endangered by the whooping cough. The most important thing a government can do to protect public health is to see to it that its children are vaccinated against disease." The two cosponsors noted that about 775,000 California children received free vaccines through the Vaccines For Children program last year. And if California had been required to pay for those vaccines, it would have cost more than $60 million (joint press release, 4/30). Click here to read more about the Healthy Families program.