HEALTHY FAMILIES: San Diego, Kern Counties See Low Enrollment
Although San Diego County is the state's second most-populous county, it "trails six counties in numbers of children enrolled" in Healthy Families, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Five thousand three hundred children statewide have enrolled so far, but only 210 are in San Diego County. "With 8.5% of the state population, the county has only 4% of the program's enrollment," the Union-Tribune reports. County officials blame the low enrollment on the same factors public health officials have been citing since the program began last month -- the "confounding" application and immigrants' fear of retribution. Maggie Robertson, program manager at Vista Community Clinic, said, "The program isn't working as it should be because a lot of people ... are too afraid to apply for it."
According to the Union-Tribune many immigrants whose children are legally entitled to the program are shunning it because they believe it's linked to Medi-Cal and they have heard rumors that immigrants are deported for using Medi-Cal or are penalized for using Medi-Cal when applying for residency. "Because of the fears of the community to access anything connected to Medi-Cal, people are shying away from it (Healthy Families). The one thing that has to be done immediately is to disgorge Healthy Families from Medi-Cal and any references to Medi-Cal," said Carlos Rodriguez of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California. While Latinos are believed to comprise 60% of the eligible children, they make up only 30% of those enrolled so far. Asian or Pacific Islanders account for another 35%, white children 26% and African Americans only 3.5% (Duerkson, 8/7).
The Bakersfield Californian reports that only 200 of Kern County's estimated 40,000 eligible children have enrolled in Healthy Families. The numbers were released at hearing yesterday held by state and local officials. Several officials, however, "predicted the numbers will climb as the program becomes better known." The officials also discussed how the program could "obtain written assurance from immigration officials that they will not use Healthy Families participation against immigrants trying to become citizens," the Bakersfield Californian reports (Bedell, 8/6).