Steinberg Outlines Plan for Universal Coverage for Children
In the first 120 days of the new legislative session, Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) aims to win approval of a plan to provide health insurance coverage to all California children, the Sacramento Bee reports.
About 800,000 kids in California are uninsured.
Given the state's budget deficit, Steinberg said he will turn to foundations and the First 5 California Children and Families Commission for money that will be used to draw matching funds from the federal government to cover the cost of the coverage expansion. Funds also will be used to support existing programs.
First 5 administers proceeds of a voter-approved tobacco tax for early childhood health care and education programs.
Steinberg has asked the California Endowment and First 5 to each give $50 million to the effort.
Steinberg does not plan to seek federal matching funds until President-elect Barack Obama is inaugurated. Obama has voiced support for expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program, called Healthy Families in California.
Potential Sticking Points
The law that created First 5 prohibits funds from being used for existing programs, but First 5 officials are considering potential ways for the program to contribute funding to Healthy Families.
Enrollment in Healthy Families could be frozen later this month because of funding constraints.Â
Steinberg has asked the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board, which administers Healthy Families, to delay the vote to freeze enrollment until the Legislature could consider his plan (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 12/7).
A "key selling point" in Steinberg's plan is that he "is not trying [to] tap the state's general fund, which would be a nonstarter, given an $11 billion deficit," a San Jose Mercury News editorial states.
According to the editorial, "Steinberg's strategy has the best chance of any that have been tried since [Gov. Arnold] Schwarzenegger (R) took office" (San Jose Mercury News, 12/6).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.