Thousands of Uninsurable Californians on Waiting List as State Program Lacks Funds
Although California's Major Risk Medical Insurance Program is designed to offer coverage to the uninsurable, a fixed budget and increasing medical costs have prompted program officials to cut enrollment, the Orange County Register reports. With an annual budget of $40 million derived from tobacco-tax revenue, the program has seen a 1,000-person drop in enrollment from last year's 18,000, and a waiting list of 6,400 names now exists, "which means the last person may have to wait 18 months for coverage." The program's 17,000 enrollees, who compose about 14% of the estimated 123,000 Californians who cannot obtain private coverage because of pre-existing conditions or other health factors, pay premiums up to 37.5% above market rates. Advocates have called for Gov. Gray Davis (D) to increase the program's funding, but he has said that he favors "market-based solutions" for the uninsured. And a state Assembly bill designed to reduce the waiting list by limiting enrollment to three years and "guarantee[ing]" private coverage (with a cap on premiums) after someone left the program was "shelved" until next year. Richard Popper, MRMIP's assistant director, said, "Given the waiting list, and the fact that our enrollment in the past couple of years has declined in terms of the number of people we can afford to enroll, I'd say our program is in what the insurance industry calls a death spiral" (Wolfson, Orange County Register, 9/2).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.