Senate Committee Approves Measure To Expand Children’s Health Care Programs
The Senate Health Committee on Wednesday voted to approve a bill (SB 437) that would create a program, called the California Healthy Kids Insurance Program, intended to expand eligibility for existing state health care programs for children, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Gledhill, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/14). An Assembly hearing is scheduled next week for AB 772, a similar measure Rep. Wilma Chan (D-Oakland) introduced in February (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 4/14).
The bills would extend the income eligibility requirement for current state health insurance programs to include those from households whose annual incomes do not exceed 300% of the federal poverty level. Currently, children from households whose annual incomes do not exceed 250% of the FPL are eligible for state health insurance programs. The bills also would allow undocumented immigrants to receive health insurance coverage through state programs (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/14).
An analysis by PriceWaterhouseCoopers estimates that the measures would cost $119 million to $331 million annually (Sacramento Bee, 4/14). Supporters have said that the program would be implemented in phases to reduce immediate funding needs. Most of the funds would be eligible for matching federal dollars. According to the Chronicle, supporters are considering using tobacco tax revenue to fund the program (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/14).
In addition, the measures are "more viable" because the projected cost of the program is lower than the cost of two proposals to create a universal health care system in the state currently under consideration by the Legislature (Sacramento Bee, 4/14).
Ted Lempert, president of Children Now and spokesperson for the campaign in support of the bills, called the bills' cost "a relatively small amount to achieve this huge goal." He added, "Our children's health is our number one future economic asset. They need this health insurance to grow up to become productive, healthy adults."
Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) said, "A problem like this does not wait for a good budget year" (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/14).
A spokesperson for Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Kim Belshe said, "The issue of every child in California having health insurance is a high priority for the administration. Reflecting on the priority, the governor's proposed budget has a high number of items that aim to expand enrollment in Medi-Cal and Healthy Families for Children by improving outreach and enrollment."
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has not taken a position on the bills.
Democrats in the Legislature and business groups, including the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, support SB 437 (Sacramento Bee, 4/14). No opposition to the bill has been registered with the Legislature (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/14).
Supporters of the measures on Wednesday advocated the bills at a "town hall-style meeting" at the Sacramento Convention Center, the Bee reports. PICO California, a statewide network of religious organizations, and the 100% Campaign, a coalition that includes the Children's Defense Fund and the Children's Partnership, sponsored the event. Perata, Belshe and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) were scheduled to speak at the meeting (Sacramento Bee, 4/14).
In related news, Nunez and Perata on Wednesday announced that they are forming a legislative task force to study what resources the state should allocate to assist those diagnosed with autism. Perata said that there has been a 1,000% increase in the number of people diagnosed with autism in the last 20 years (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/14).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.