SAN JOSE: Council Rejects Children’s Universal Coverage Plan
An initiative that would have provided health coverage for 37,000 uninsured San Jose children was narrowly defeated in a 6-5 vote yesterday by City Council members, the Los Angeles Times reports. The plan would have pulled about $2 million each year from the city's $10 million-per-year tobacco settlement, while Santa Clara County and private resources would have contributed the remaining $4 million annually needed to implement the plan. A major part of the program would have included enrolling more people in established state and federal health programs, including California's Healthy Families and Medi-Cal. The plan also would have subsidized premiums for the poor and helped families ineligible for government assistance pay for private insurance. While council members initially embraced the plan -- unveiled last month -- the "fragile coalition collapsed a week ago," as some began "questioning whether the city should get into health care issues normally handled by the county." Council members made their decision after hearing four hours of public testimony Monday and debating amongst themselves for two hours Tuesday. Council member Pat Dando cast the deciding vote, saying that while children's health care is important, she felt the city had "gone astray" by focusing on dollar amounts right away. She joined other council members in agreeing to a plan supported by Mayor Ron Gonzales that calls for a detailed study of the proposal (Bailey, 6/14). Noting that he was still open to insuring children, Gonzales said, "We have to make sure that we're doing it not just because it sounds good. We have to do it effectively" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 6/14). He added, "But we have to be careful. This is not an area where we have experience, expertise or success" (Levey, San Jose Mercury News, 6/14). One disappointed supporter of the health plan initiative, Bob Brownstein of the labor-backed research group Working Partnerships USA said, "I don't think children's health is a priority for the mayor. But this battle is not over. Nobody has given up on children in San Jose" (Los Angeles Times, 6/14).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.