THE UNINSURED: Lawmakers Move to Make Medi-Cal, Healthy Families More Accessible
"Shocked" by reports that up to 7 million Californians are without health insurance, lawmakers are proposing "radical changes" in public health programs such as Medi-Cal and Healthy Families to remove the "stigma" and paperwork hassles, the Los Angeles Times reports. Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa (D-Los Angeles) has proposed combining the two programs with the Access for Infants and Mother program, which provides perinatal and infant care, creating a single program for "easy one-stop shopping for government-assisted health care." In addition, the speaker's legislation would expand Healthy Families and seek to "remove the stigma of welfare by eliminating any requirement that applications for health care insurance be made at welfare offices." Similarly, a measure by state Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco) would allow the poor to submit Medi-Cal applications by mail and simplify eligibility and documentation requirements. In addition, the Times reports that an Assembly budget panel meeting in Los Angeles last Friday "pledged to focus most of its energy on expanding health care for the uninsured." State Sen. Kevin Murray (D-Los Angeles), author of a bill similar to Villaraigosa's, said, "For years we have been trying to save money by making it more difficult for people to access these programs. The system seems to have been designed with the assumption that people are going to be fraudulent." Burton noted that at least 1.1 million uninsured children are eligible for Medi-Cal or Healthy Families, many of whom do not enroll because of "mounds of government rules and regulations" (Ellis, 3/7).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.