The Legislature this week gave its final approval to a bill designed to help families understand health care options and gain access to coverage when they enroll their children in school.
AB 2706 by Assembly member Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina) passed a Senate floor vote Tuesday, Assembly concurrence Wednesday and now heads to the governor for final approval.
“The Affordable Care Act has created new opportunities for coverage of California’s children,” Hernandez said at an April health committee hearing. “However, notable barriers still exist, such as lack of awareness about the programs, challenge with enrollment, lack of coverage due to life transitions and, of course, language barriers.”
This bill would reduce those barriers by linking eligible children and families to school enrollment, according to Sen. Norma Torres (D-Pomona), who brought the measure to the Senate floor Tuesday.
“This bill will help reduce the number of eligible but uninsured children by providing information to parents about health care coverage options and enrollment assistance when enrolling their child into school,” Torres said.
“This bill will help thousands of families across California enroll in health care coverage,” she said, “and it will reduce costs for schools associated with absence due to illness.”
The bill passed the Senate on a 25-9 vote followed by a 55-22 concurrence vote in the Assembly. The governor has till the end of September to sign or veto this session’s bills.
The governor’s signature may not be a sure thing, though. The Department of Finance opposed the bill, estimating it could cost as much as $1.6 million, since it’s a reimbursable state mandate.
According to Suzie Shupe, executive director of California Coverage and Health Initiatives, that estimate did not take into account the number of schools that already offer online registration where the information could be added at no cost. Shupe said about 16% of California’s schools offer online registration. Also, she said, the notices about health care options would be no longer than two pages, significantly decreasing cost estimates — not to mention the money the state could save on children’s school absences.
“Giving parents information about health coverage is a no-brainer for schools,” Shupe said. “When children have health insurance they come to school healthy and ready to learn, absences go down and achievement goes up.”
Autumn Ogden, a policy analyst at CCHI, said in an email that she had just enrolled her son the day before into public school.
“I can say that school enrollment is an excellent time to give parents information about affordable health coverage options,” Ogden said. “Parents trust information coming from the schools and welcome any information that can benefit their kids.”