HEALTHY FAMILIES: Kern County Sees Little Enrollment
Kern County officials held a meeting with state lawmakers and health officials yesterday to assess how well the new Healthy Families program is working. State Sens. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) and Ken Maddy (R-Fresno), Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board Executive Director Sandra Shewry and Kern County Health Department Director B. Jinadu were planning to discuss enrollment and marketing of the state's new health insurance program for children of the working poor. Officials wouldn't release enrollment figures early, and three of the four health plans providing coverage through Healthy Families either didn't "have accurate numbers" or wouldn't answer questions. "If the figures reflect what little statistical data and anecdotal evidence is available now in Kern County," the Bakersfield Californian reports, "they could prove disappointing."
Rosanna Westmoreland of Kern Family Health Care, the designated "community plan provider," said her plan has enrolled only 53 children. Steve Schilling, executive director of Clinica Sierra Vista, which runs several rural health clinics in the area, said the clinics "aren't seeing many takers even though eight people have been hired to do nothing but help people fill out Healthy Families applications." He said about 140 applications have been completed since the program started a month ago, but he didn't know the percentage of children who would be eligible. He said the "disappointing numbers" are due to the complex 20-plus-page application, "an inadequate marketing campaign" and "the fear that personal information will be passed on to immigration officials." Schilling said, "If a trusted, valued community health care friend like us can't convince patients it's OK to sign up for this program and have nothing happen to them, no one can." The Bakersfield Californian reports that one group estimated 15,000 Kern County children would qualify for the program, while another estimated that number to be as high as 40,000 (Bedell, 8/5). Click Healthy Families to read past coverage of enrollment barriers among the Latino population.