HEALTHY FAMILIES: Lawmakers Introduce Slew of Expansion Efforts
As of this week, only about 68,000 of an estimated 325,000 qualified children have enrolled in Healthy Families, according to state figures. In the meantime, the San Francisco Examiner reports that there is "an aggressive effort to expand" the program so that an additional 145,000 can qualify. "We all talk about HMO reform, as we well should, but there is a more critical issue facing California, and that's access to care," said Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa (D-Los Angeles), who has introduced a measure (AB 43) to expand Healthy Families eligibility to children whose families earn up to 250% of the federal poverty level. The Examiner reports that the bill has "tentative support" from Gov. Gray Davis (Salladay, 2/11). Davis' budget proposal unveiled last month includes $2.7 million to raise the eligibility ceiling to that level (see CHL 1/11).
Bigger and Better?
It looks as though dozens of other lawmakers also want to expand Healthy Families.
- Assemblywoman Helen Thompson (D-Davis) has introduced a measure, AB 100, that would use the state's proceeds from its settlement with the tobacco industry to expand Healthy Families coverage to parents.
- AB 48, sponsored by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), would "state the intent of the Legislature to make Healthy Families more accessible to low-income families."
- Two similar measures would make eligible children "presumptively eligible" for both Healthy Families and Medi-Cal - - State Sen. Liz Figueroa's (D-Fremont) SB 112 and state Sen. Martha Escutia's (D-Montebello) SB 87.
- State Sen. Tom Hayden's (D-Los Angeles) SB 92 would change the definition of "resident" so that any child who is "physically present and living in California" is covered, regardless of his or her date of entry into the country.
- Another bill, SB 107, that would "liberalize eligibility" requirements has been introduced by state Sen. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles).
- Other lawmakers are working to improve the existing Healthy Families structure. State Sen. Hilda Solis' (D-El Monte) SB 102 would place an annual cap of $250 on the amount that a family must contribute for copayments.
- State Sen. Byron Sher's (D-Palo Alto) SB 180 would give community groups more funds to increase outreach efforts (Rachel Kennedy, California Healthline).