Survey Findings on Poor Health of Welfare Recipients Should Spur Congress to Adjust Welfare Laws
A new survey of 4,000 single women who depended on welfare in 1995 -- which found that more than 40% had "multiple health problems ... compounded by other barriers to getting and holding down a job, such as little education, no work experience, limited English skills and having a large number of children" -- should "influence how Congress adjusts the welfare reform law when it comes up for reauthorization next year," according to a Los Angeles Times editorial. Congress could "increase exemptions or consider new regulations patterned after the Family Leave Act, which allows a worker to take time off from work without losing a job to care for a sick child or parent," the Times says. For example, the editorial explains, "the clock [on welfare limits] could be stopped temporarily" for a welfare beneficiary in a similar situation. The survey also found that women who leave welfare and return to work often do so without health insurance. The editorial notes that Congress has tried to address this problem by "requiring states to provide health coverage to poor families" and by "expand[ing] the Children's Health Insurance Program." But the editorial says that CHIP funds were not completely spent "even in a state like California, with its huge population of more than a million uninsured children." The editorial concludes: "That so many former welfare recipients and their children continue to lack health benefits suggests that California still must do a better job in getting the word out about the state's Medi-Cal and Healthy Families programs. The state's new Internet application should help parents avoid the hassle of having to go one place to enroll young children and another for older children. California needs to create one seamless public health insurance program to provide a medical safety net for children who most need it" (Los Angeles Times, 7/21).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.