Push for Universal Health Insurance for Children Grows in California Counties
The success of Santa Clara County's Children's Health Initiative has inspired other California counties to provide universal health care for children, the San Jose Mercury News reports. While most local efforts involve increased outreach and enrollment initiatives for Medi-Cal and Healthy Families, some counties are offering new plans to children in families whose incomes exceed the limits set by the state plans. For example, Santa Clara County's Healthy Kids plan provides coverage for children in households with incomes up to 300% of the federal poverty level, or $54,300 annually for a family of four. Since January 2001, the program has doubled its original enrollment goal by insuring 30,000 of the county's 72,000 uninsured children. Following Santa Clara's lead, San Francisco and Alameda counties are currently enrolling children in health plans, and San Mateo County plans to launch its program in January. Contra Costa, Orange and Riverside counties also plan to launch programs by the end of the year. Counties still in the "discussion phase" include Sacramento, Solano, Sonoma, San Joaquin, San Diego and San Bernardino. As part of the enrollment effort, counties have simplified application forms and conducted outreach efforts at schools, clinics and community centers.
Despite Gov. Gray Davis' (D) proposed budget cuts for some health services, the momentum to provide coverage for children is growing on the county level for ethical and cost considerations, the Mercury News reports. Uninsured children have a death rate 150% higher than insured children, and many parents of uninsured children rely on costly emergency room care. "It doesn't take a whole lot of money for counties to cover these kids relative to the cost of them going into the emergency rooms," Liane Wong, policy director for the Institute for Health Policy Solutions, said (de Sa, San Jose Mercury News, 6/23).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.