HEALTHY FAMILIES: UCLA Study Finds 25% Fewer Kids Will Be Covered
Revisions to the state-sponsored Healthy Families insurance program and more accurate methods of counting eligible children could reduce the number of uninsured children who will be covered by the program by 25%. An analysis by University of California-Los Angeles researchers finds that the program will cover an estimated 400,000 of the state's 1.7 million uninsured children, instead of the 562,000 it was originally expected to cover. Changes in the program's eligibility requirements made by Gov. Pete Wilson will reduce the number of eligible children by 50,000. In addition, a new method that allows researchers to count the number of undocumented, uninsured children in the state accounts for another drop from the original estimate of about 60,000 children. Another 60,000 children were removed because of better calculations that account for the differences in the way the U.S. Census Bureau and public benefits programs calculate the poverty level.
"These numbers clearly indicate that if the state wants to cover more uninsured children, the eligibility level for Healthy Families needs to be increased," said Steven Wallace, associate director for public programs at UCLA's Center for Health Policy Research. The UCLA analysis shows that marketing the new program to low-income families may be more difficult than expected because it may be hard for families to figure out whether their children qualify for Healthy Families coverage. Recommendations for expanding Healthy Families enrollment made in the report include dropping or reducing the monthly premium and expanding the income threshold for the program. The analysis, which was conducted at the request of state Assemblyman Martin Gallegos (D-Irwindale) and state Sen. Herschel Rosenthal (D-Van Nuys), was forwarded to the state Legislature (UCLA release, 5/29).