San Diego Community Making Strides to Cover Uninsured
Although about 24% of San Diego County residents under age 65 lack insurance -- a rate higher than the state and national averages -- "[t]here is growing recognition that access to health care has become a fundamental issue of statewide and countywide importance," Assembly member Charlene Zettel (R) and Alliance Healthcare Foundation CEO Ruth Lyn Riedel write in a San Diego Union-Tribune op-ed. Most of the county's uninsured adults work, but are either not offered coverage through their employers or cannot afford private coverage. And about 210,000 San Diego County adults and children are eligible for public coverage but are not enrolled; notably, Zettel and Riedel point out that San Diego County has one of the lowest Medi-Cal reimbursement rates in the state. Although the "challenges of increasing access to health care in San Diego appear daunting," the authors write that "we can be encouraged by the way many diverse groups have come together over the issue in the past two years."
For example, by committing all of the county's $30 million portion of the national tobacco settlement to health-related programs, the County Board of Supervisors "took a true leadership role" on the issue, Zettel and Riedel write. The supervisors also created the Project Management Committee to oversee the Improving Access to Healthcare project. Zettel and Riedel say that one of the committee's "most innovative" suggestions is to create a Business Health Access Resource Center, which would provide small businesses that seek to insure low-income employees through public programs and low-cost group insurance with "one-stop shopping and administrative services." Zettel plans during this session to introduce legislation to create such a center in San Diego. Zettel and Riedel write, "In the end, we all pay the price for a large uninsured population. Those without primary care turn to overcrowded emergency rooms ... Employees go to work sick ... Children go to school without basic preventive and primary health care." The authors conclude, "We have before us an opportunity to act collectively to protect and honor the basic human rights of our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers, our classmates and ourselves" (Zettel/Riedel, San Diego Union-Tribune, 2/9).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.