UNINSURED: State Programs Leave Unused $2.3B in Federal Funds
The Health Access Foundation last week released a report detailing a "shocking" amount of federal funding -- $2.3 billion -- that California has left unused during the first three years of the Healthy Families program. Bruce Livingston, a spokesperson for the foundation, said, "California is leaving $2.3 billion on the table while over one million children in working poor families have no access to health care. The Legislature and governor could insure hundreds of thousands of children and their parents with a long term commitment of federal funding to double our money." As of the end of May, only 118,000 children have been enrolled out of the 328,000 eligible. The report notes that even if Healthy Families were extended to children in families earning up to 300% of the federal poverty level, over $100 million in federal funds would still remain. Health Access suggests that the remainder could be used to insure the parents of eligible children. The report states that because the allocation formula changes in federal FY 2001, the state will receive a smaller block grant in future years -- probably about $561 million annually from FY 2002 to FY 2007, according to state estimates. But it notes that the smaller grant is still sufficient to fund premium payments for uninsured children, even with expanded eligibility.
Plenty of Proposals
The organization indicates its support for several bills now pending in the Legislature: AB 43, AB 93 and SB 748 would expand state funded health insurance eligibility to parents and children earning up to $39,000 per year for a family of three and would include recent immigrants; SB 780 and AB 1015 would streamline Healthy Families and Medi-Cal, including application paperwork and processing; and SB 480 would set a goal of universal health coverage in the state by July 1, 2003. Beth Capell, lobbyist for Health Access California, said, "Legislation would provide health care for hundreds of thousands of children with a huge long term federal commitment to provide funds" (release, 6/8).