UNINSURED CHILDREN: State Senator Vows Change in 2000
State Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Dale City) vowed to make health coverage for the state's uninsured children her "first and most important priority in the year 2000." But she might face challenges in rallying other legislators; she was the only senator present at Wednesday's Senate Insurance Committee hearing on Californians without health coverage. Despite the poor turnout, Speier, who chairs the committee, is optimistic, saying that the other nine members of the committee are "interested" in the subject. The panel heard testimony and suggestions from different experts, but was not scheduled to take any official actions. Committee Vice Chair Sen. Ross Johnson (R-Irvine) said that GOP senators are planning to release their own proposals to expand California's "safety net," possibly including an expansion of the Healthy Families children's medical program. Officials believe that many of the state's 1.8 million uninsured children are eligible for Medi-Cal or Healthy Families, but are not enrolled because of the stigma attached to government programs, bureaucratic red tape or the threat of fraud investigations. Speier suggested using the school system to identify more uninsured children, saying that she hopes to work with other legislators, Gov. Gray Davis (D) and private insurers to create a "multipronged" solution. Speier added, "I think it is irresponsible for us not to insure the children of California, completely and totally" (Matthews, Sacramento Bee, 12/9).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.