More Children Received Health Insurance Through State Programs, Fewer Covered By Parents’ Employers, Study Finds
The number of children in the state receiving health coverage under Healthy Families in 2003 increased by 500,000 from 2001, and the number of children covered under employer-sponsored health plans decreased by 300,000 over the same period, according to a University of California-Los Angeles Center for Health Policy Research study released Tuesday, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
The number of children in the state without health insurance last year decreased to 1.1 million from 1.5 million in 2001, according to the study. Accounting for an increase in the state population younger than age 18, the number of children with health insurance increased by about 500,000 from 2001 to 2003, the study found.
The number of children covered under a parent's employer-sponsored health plan decreased by 6.3% to 5.1 million from 2001 to 2003, while the number of children who received health insurance under state programs increased by 23.6% to 2.94 million.
Enrollment in Healthy Families increased from about 200,000 children in 2000 to almost 700,000 this year, according to Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board spokesperson Jeanne Brode. The Healthy Families budget increased from $390 million in fiscal year 2000-2001 to $872 million this fiscal year, in part because of expanded eligibility, Brode said.
According to the study, increasing unemployment rates and higher health care costs contributed to the decline in coverage for children under employer-sponsored health plans.
CHPR Director E. Richard Brown, co-author of the report, said, "What this demonstrates is that the Medi-Cal and Healthy Families programs have really increased the coverage for these kids and picked up a lot of the kids who have lost employment-based coverage."
Others have said that the state cannot afford to provide expanded health coverage, "nor should it increase the burden on businesses when California is still facing criticism for being unfriendly to business," the Daily News reports.
Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association President Jon Coupal has suggested placing limits on the number of people that can be covered under state health insurance programs, and he advocates encouraging more state residents to purchase private coverage. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) last year proposed imposing enrollment limits for some state health insurance programs but rescinded the proposal after listening to "strong protests" from some Democratic legislators and health care advocates, the Daily News reports.
Coupal said, "What we really want to prevent here is families who can afford insurance not providing it and simply relying on the state."
Department of Finance spokesperson H.D. Palmer said Schwarzenegger in his budget proposal for FY 2005-2006 will seek ways to limit the state's health care costs. Palmer said, "Health and human service programs have seen some of the fastest growth in spending over the past five or so years. The challenge is to control the rate of growth of those programs, while at the same time trying to ensure that to the greatest extent possible we can provide services to the most vulnerable populations in California."
According to the Daily News, a coalition of health care groups in January plans to propose legislation that would:
- Expand eligibility guidelines for existing public health insurance programs;
- Establish a partnership between public and private interests to encourage employers to provide health insurance for employees' dependents; and
- Simplify the application and eligibility processes for public health insurance programs.
The proposal would cost the state about $250 million to $300 million annually, with additional federal matching funds, the Daily News reports (Sheppard, Los Angeles Daily News, 12/14). A fact sheet on the report is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to access the fact sheet. 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.