LOS ANGELES COUNTY: Many Poor Children Lack Health Care Coverage
One in four children in Los Angeles County lacks health insurance and most of the uninsured children are from working poor families, according to a survey released yesterday. The Los Angeles Times reports that the findings reveal what health officials say is a "major public health challenge." Supervisor Yvonne Burke called the high rate of uninsured children a "real crisis" and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said it is a "shame and a crime." L.A. County Director of Public Health Dr. Jonathan Fielding said, "The worst part is, there's no sense of public outrage. The public should say, 'This is not acceptable. We need to do better'" (Abrahamson, 7/22). The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reports that the telephone survey of more than 8,000 households was conducted by the Field Research Corp. and the county's Department of Health Services. One major finding was that "doctor visits for children from low-income families are delayed up to a year because they lack money and transportation" (7/21). About 17% of the surveyed parents said transportation was an obstacle to getting their children to the doctor. In addition, the study found that "[o]ne in five uninsured children had not seen a doctor in a year."
"Even before the survey results were published," the Los Angeles Times reports, county leaders announced renewed efforts to enroll uninsured children in Healthy Families or Medi-Cal. Nearly 50% of the uninsured may be eligible for Medi-Cal, the survey found. Burke said "she intends to call upon the Board of Supervisors to compel county contractors to provide information to their employees on various insurance options." In addition, Burke and Supervisor Gloria Molina "complained" yesterday that Healthy Families has gotten off to an "unacceptably slow start," due mostly to the burdensome registration process. The two supervisors instructed Health Director Mark Finucane "to have staff members at county health facilities help people fill out" the Healthy Families' application forms, which many have complained are extremely complex. (7/22). "I don't think what is being done is enough. There are 600,000 to 700,000 uninsured children in Los Angeles County alone. But I think it is a good start in the right direction," said Dr. Neil Halfon, co-director of the UCLA Center for Healthier Families, Children and Communities (Daily Bulletin, 7/21).
The Los Angeles Times reports that yesterday's report was the second in a series by the county. The first report, released in April, found that the majority of uninsured adults in the county are ethnic minorities, with nearly half of Latinos under 65 and more than a third of Asians lacking health insurance (see CHL 4/16). Though it was sponsored by the county and conducted by Field Research, the survey released yesterday "was conducted primarily by USC professor Michael Cousineau" (7/22).