SANTA CLARA COUNTY: Pursues Children’s Universal Coverage Plan
One day after the San Jose City Council defeated a proposal to provide universal health coverage for children, supervisors for Santa Clara County maintained their pledge to direct $3 million of its tobacco settlement money toward insuring all local children, the San Jose Mercury News reports. There currently are 31,000 uninsured children in the county outside San Jose and an estimated 37,000 uninsured children in the city. Several activist groups, including Working Partnerships, a South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council affiliate, and People Acting in Community Together, have fought for city and county support of the initiative, which would help eligible children enroll in state and federal insurance programs as well as assist in paying premiums. The plan also would pay for private insurance for children whose parents earn too much to qualify for subsidized care. San Jose's City Council Tuesday opposed putting $2 million of its tobacco allotment toward guaranteeing health insurance for city children. Rather Mayor Ron Gonzales asked proponents to apply for the city's tobacco money through a soon-to-be appointed task force. "You will see a $3 million match -- if not from [San Jose], then from private foundations or the public," Beth Gonzales, a community leader in support of the plan, said in response to the county board's support of the initiative. Santa Clara County's next move is to determine how to deliver their proposed insurance plan; the county already has added $1.9 million into its existing outreach program (Guido, 6/15).
'Too Good to Give Up'
Chastising the city's rejection of universal coverage for kids, an editorial in Thursday's San Jose Mercury News asserted that "San Jose really ought to be a partner" in the children's health care initiative despite the city council's claim that the tobacco money was earmarked for antitobacco programs, seniors and education. The initiative "shouldn't be a problem to classify under education. Healthy kids will do better in school. Any teacher will tell you that." To see if the mayor and council appropriately use their tobacco money, the editorial says it will be important to observe who is appointed to the anticipated task force committee and what grant criteria they impose on the monetary distribution. While supportive of the health care plan, the editorial acknowledges implementation obstacles, primarily that groups proposing the plan lack the position and interest to actually operate the program. "Supporters of the plan should be looking for some group, maybe a health care coalition, to take on the project and apply for money. That'll give it the best chance. And community groups rallying around this cause need to stay involved," the editorial concludes (6/15).