SANTA CLARA COUNTY: Program May Cover All Uninsured Children
Santa Clara County may become the first county in the nation to provide health coverage for all its uninsured children, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The proposed Children's Health Initiative, which could take effect as early as January, would provide some form of health care coverage for the county's 68,995 uninsured children through funds from the tobacco settlement, the state's tobacco tax, private foundations and local governments. "The notion that children should have a decent chance at a future, because the community wants them to have health ... is something an enormous majority of people here think is the right thing to do. The support we're getting is pretty much universal," Bob Brownstein, executive director of the organized labor-affiliated think tank Working Partnerships and a drafter of the initiative, said. The initiative would direct families eligible for Medi-Cal or Healthy Families into those programs and would also create a third insurance option for families who "fall through the cracks." The new insurance program would cover families earning up to 300% of the federal poverty level, as well as "undocumented children" ineligible for other government insurance. Beneficiaries of the new option would receive primary and specialty care coverage as well as vision and dental benefits. Monthly premiums for the plan would range from zero to $24, depending on the family's size and income. In addition, the Children's Health Initiative would establish a "hardship fund" to subsidize premiums and copayments for Healthy Families coverage and would provide a temporary, one-month eligibility for every child who "appears to be eligible" for any plan, thus allowing children to receive treatment immediately instead of waiting for paperwork to be processed. The program will most likely be managed by the Santa Clara Family Health Plan, which already administers Medi-Cal and Healthy Families enrollment for the county. The county has earmarked $3 million of its tobacco settlement funds to support the Children's Health Initiative, and an additional $1 million will come from the Santa Clara Family Health Foundation. The county also will contribute $2 million per year in tobacco tax funds for the next three years to serve children ages five and younger. Officials hope that the remaining cost of the program -- $8 million to $12 million annually -- will be funded by local governments and private foundations (Gaura, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/4). In June, the San Jose City Council rejected a similar initiative that would have provided coverage to the city's 37,000 uninsured children. Immediately following the city's rejection of the plan, Santa Clara County set to work on creating a county-wide program ( California Healthline, 6/15). Following the city's rejection of the plan, "an avalanche of public support" sprang up, and a half-dozen of "California's largest private foundations" offered to get involved with the program's development. The Packard Foundation, the California HealthCare Foundation and the California Wellness Foundation are currently negotiating how they will participate in the plan. A preliminary report drafted by county staff members will be presented today to a Board of Supervisors committee; officials intend to have a final plan approved before the end of the year (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/4).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.