ORANGE COUNTY: Higher Than National Average Of Uninsured Children
Orange County ranked near the bottom in a nationwide study of 12 communities in the number of children without health insurance. The Los Angeles Times reports that the study, conducted by the Center for Studying Health System Change, found that 16.9% of Orange County children are uninsured. Orange County compared unfavorably with the 10.9% national average -- only Miami and Little Rock had higher rates of uninsured children. Researchers said that most of the children were uninsured because their parents don't have access to health coverage through their employers. The "large percentage of new immigrant workers ... often can find only low-wage, service-industry jobs that do not provide health care," notes Burt Winer, vice president for Lutheran Social Services in Orange County. In addition, researchers note that the area has a high number of immigrants "who are not fluent in English [and] can be hesitant about filling out complex applications for health care coverage. Some families fear any official document might result in deportation."
A Bipartisan Issue
"It's very important that every child has the ability to get medical care," said Winer. "I don't think that should be a political issue. That should be a bipartisan issue," he added. Orange County Supervisor William Steiner, who is heading up a task force overseeing the county's participation in Healthy Families, said he isn't surprised by the numbers. "There is a real sharp line between the haves and the have nots in Orange County. The dark side is one that people try not to think about, but I think we're plugging away at this ... we want people to get access to these (health care) systems," he said (Tawa, 8/5).