HEALTHY FAMILIES: Officials Struggle To Ready Program For Start-up
With the July 1 start-up date of Healthy Families looming, the Los Angeles Times reports that local and state officials are "scrambling" to get the program ready. "There is a lot that still needs to be worked out. Is it too complicated? Will the outreach effort be successful? Will the copay requirement be a barrier?" asked Orange County Supervisor William Steiner, "who appointed a task force to oversee" his county's participation in the state-run, federally subsidized Children's Health Insurance Program created under last year's balance budget agreement.
A Little Intimidating?
The Times reports that the "first barrier" in implementing the program could be the application itself. "At 16 pages, enclosed in an 28-page workbook, it is as daunting as a long tax form." Not only is it lengthy, but complex, allowing families to apply for either "low-cost Healthy Families or no-cost Medi-Cal for Children." However, there are different deductions for each program, which could add to the confusion. And the second obstacle, the Times reports, may be the choices the recipients must make once approved for the program. For example, in Orange County, where the program is expected to serve 3,000 children, parents must choose between 12 health plans with monthly premiums ranging from $4 to $27. Some officials and advocates are worried that poor people will not "flock to the program." For some, the monthly premiums may be too expensive, and for illegal immigrants with legal children, fear of prosecution could keep them from applying.
"To help with this complex system," the Times reports that an Orange County coalition, First Things First, is "helping community organizations receive training and spread the word about the new program." Alan Woo, head of the coalition, said, "We want to make sure that those people who can participate in Healthy Families get signed up, but at the same time, we realize we might also reach people who should be on Medi-Cal." Some community workers will even go door to door to spread the word about the program. And the state is starting is "advertising blitz" July 1, "using radio and television spots, billboards, bus signs, even ads on grocery bags," according to Sandra Shewry, executive director of the state's Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board, the agency which oversees Healthy Families (Dodson, 6/29). Click here to read extensive California Healthline coverage of the state's Healthy Families program. For more information on the program or to receive an application, call (888) 777-1222 to speak to someone in English or Spanish.