Orange County Officials To Discuss Issue of Uninsured Children
Orange County public health officials and policymakers on Thursday will meet to discuss the growing number of uninsured children in the county and strategies to expand health care coverage, the Los Angeles Times reports.
County Supervisor Lou Correa estimated that there are about 44,000 uninsured children in Orange County. He said the group likely will discuss providing public funds to expand health care coverage to children.
Data from the University of California-Los Angeles indicate that about 82,000 county residents younger than age 19 are uninsured.
Some health care experts say many children who do not qualify for Medi-Cal or Healthy Families are undocumented immigrants or have household incomes that exceed eligibility limits but are inadequate to pay for health care coverage, the Times reports.
Some California counties -- including Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties -- provide health insurance for some children, but Orange County does not have such a program in place.
There are 31 not-for-profit community clinics in the county that charge users on a sliding scale.
In addition, the California Kids Collaborative, which includes St. Joseph Health System and other health agencies, this year provided funds for health care coverage for about 6,300 children in Orange County. The St. Joseph Health System Foundation and three St. Joseph hospitals in the county together will allocate $3 million in the next three years to increase to 9,000 the number of children who receive coverage under the program and pay for 16 staff members to enroll eligible children in state health insurance programs.
Larry Ainsworth, president and CEO of St. Joseph Hospital, said, "We can do this for three years, but then what? How do these children get health coverage after that? We feel like something has to be done."
Orange County Health Officer Mark Horton said he hopes the meeting will lead to a solution for providing health insurance to children. "Our goal is to ensure that all children have access to health care," he said.
Mary Moyer, clinical services manager for the Share Our Selves Free Clinic, said the county had not made insuring children a priority because the county's financial problems created "a good excuse" not to insure children. "I'm outraged that there is not a better safety net. I understand there are budget pressures, but we still have one of the worst systems for providing" care, she said.
Isabel Becerra, chief operating officer of the Coalition of Orange County Community Clinics, said, "We want to have a healthier community. These kids are here, anyway, and they can make everyone sick if they are not treated for what may be a minor problem" (Delson, Los Angeles Times, 4/21).