Los Angeles County Officials Approve Program To Provide Health Coverage for Some Low-Income Children
Los Angeles County officials have allocated $100 million in tobacco tax revenue over five years for a new program that would insure low-income children younger than age six, the Los Angeles Times reports. The county Children and Families First Proposition 10 Commission, which distributes revenue from the tobacco tax established by Proposition 10, yesterday approved the program, which will begin in about six months. The program, called Healthy Kids, will provide coverage for outpatient hospital services; prescription drugs; and vision, dental and mental health services for children in families with annual incomes less than 300% of the federal poverty level, or $54,000 for a family of four. Children would qualify for the program regardless of their U.S. residency status. Families would pay a monthly premium of $4 to $6 per child, as well as "modest" copayments for emergency room visits, prescription drugs and other nonpreventive services. Healthy Kids will target children from low-income families and children from undocumented immigrant families who do not qualify for Medi-Cal or Healthy Families as a result of their incomes or legal status. The Children and Families First commission estimates that about 15,000 children would qualify for Healthy Kids. In addition, officials hope that the program will help to cover some of the 80% of the county's uninsured children younger than age six who qualify for other public health programs but have not enrolled.
Zev Yaroslavsky, chair of the county Board of Supervisors, said that when Healthy Kids takes effect, "every child under six will have access to medical care in Los Angeles." However, some health care advocates said that the program may face problems as a result of the board's decision last month to close 11 of the county's public health clinics and reduce funds for clinics that treat uninsured patients. "We need to have a network for kids, and if you close the clinics and close the hospitals, that's not going to happen," Lynn Kersey of Maternal and Child Health Access said (Larrubia, Los Angeles Times, 7/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.