Can California Kids’ Coverage Continue?

HEALTH ACCESS UPDATE
March 7th, 2007

FOCUS ON FEDERAL FUNDING FIGHT FOR CHILDREN’S COVERAGE

  • Children’s coverage is a key foundation for universal expansion
  • California children at risk without a national allocation of at least $60 billion in new funding
  • Alert: Call-In Day for the Campaign for Children’s Coverage: 1-800-828-0498
  • Also: Assembly Health votes on first bills of session: Part D Report, Medi-Cal Expansion

While we debate huge, systemic reforms to the health system statewide – and even nationwide – we cannot forget the federal fight for funding children’s coverage. The biggest debate in Congress this year is over the extent of children’s coverage, and getting full funding for children’s coverage will be foundational to health reform efforts and the push for universal coverage.

ALERT: Today and tomorrow are national CALL-IN DAYS to call your Congressional Representatives and urge them to fully fund children’s health coverage, with at least $60 billion in new federal funds. A TOLL-FREE line has been established for March 6-8th, at 1-800-828-0498.

BACKGROUND: Since its inception in 1997, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (the Healthy Families Program in California) has been hugely successful, helping to decrease the ranks of uninsured children from nearly 23 percent to 15 percent, in spite of a decline in employer-based coverage that otherwise would have swelled the ranks of uninsured children. As a result of this progra, hundreds of thousands of children are getting neededpreventive care and leading healthier lives.

In its tenth year, SCHIP is up for reauthorization this year. Fortunately, the question is not – “Should we reauthorize it?” The explosive increase in children who have insurance and are leading healthier lives because of it is reason enough to continue to fund it. The question, though, is how much?

BUSH’S PROPOSAL: President Bush has decided that SCHIP will not grow at all in the next five years – in either enrollment or health inflation. So, he’s authorized the exact same amount — another $5 billion a year for five years. Even with a meager $5 billion more, that’s abysmally low. Health inflation alone will gobble up chunks of money throwing out children already in the program. California alone needs an additional $2 to $3 billion over the next few years to ensure the 750,000 children currently enrolled don’t drop off.

CHILDREN DENIED COVERAGE?: Bush’s proposal is so low, that it means about a dozen other states, including California would need to scale back their children’s coverage programs to meet that level. California provides coverage to children in families with incomes up to 250% of poverty ($42,925 for a family of three). Bush would allow only children in families up to 200% of poverty ($34,340 for a family of three) to receive coverage. That would abruptly force 170,000 California children off Healthy Families.

The effects are longstanding too. Under the President’s budget, with even just moderate growth assumptions for SCHIP programs in California, it means 775,000 otherwise eligible kids would either be kicked off or forced to wait for another child to drop off the rolls before they could be added to Healthy Families. The money simply would not be there, according to an analysis by Peter Harbage for the California Health Care Foundation. His study will be featured today at the regular Sacramento meeting of the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board (http://click.icptrack.com/icp/relay.php?r=1012041699&msgid=3586388&act=XIOO&c=5484&admin=0&destination=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.mrmib.ca.gov&l=2), which oversees the Healthy Families program. The agenda for today’s meeting is here:
http://www.mrmib.ca.gov/MRMIB/Agenda.html

THE NEED: To adequately fund children’s health care – national advocacy groups such as Families USA and ACORN – are requesting an new, additional $60 billion.SCHIP has been the most significant health coverage expansion in the U.S. the past decade and it can’t be lost – particularly as we debate expanding coverage beyond children. Securing the additional funding needs to be a priority for all health advocates this year – as part of the larger conversation about health coverage. If children’s coverage retreats, so will our foundation for expanding coverage. All of the proposal here in California for reforming health coverage and expanding coverage would benefit from full federal funding for children.

Nationally, the Campaign for Children’s Health has a petition to support augmenting children’s health coverage. (http://click.icptrack.com/icp/relay.php?r=1012041699&msgid=3586388&act=XIOO&c=5484&admin=0&destination=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.childrenshealthcampaign.org%2F&l=4).

In California, the triumvirate of children’s groups (Children Now, Children’s Defense Fund and Children’s Partnership), also direct action through their 100% Campaign (http://click.icptrack.com/icp/relay.php?r=1012041699&msgid=3586388&act=XIOO&c=5484&admin=0&destination=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.100percentcampaign.org&l=5.)

To read analysis of the children’s health coverage issue, visit:

• Center of Budget and Policy Priorities (http://click.icptrack.com/icp/relay.php?r=1012041699&msgid=3586388&act=XIOO&c=5484&admin=0&destination=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cbpp.org&l=6)

• Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board (http://click.icptrack.com/icp/relay.php?r=1012041699&msgid=3586388&act=XIOO&c=5484&admin=0&destination=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.mrmib.ca.gov&l=7)

• Families USA (http://click.icptrack.com/icp/relay.php?r=1012041699&msgid=3586388&act=XIOO&c=5484&admin=0&destination=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.familiesusa.org%2F&l=8)

• California Budget Project (http://click.icptrack.com/icp/relay.php?r=1012041699&msgid=3586388&act=XIOO&c=5484&admin=0&destination=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cbp.org&l=9)

For more information, contact Health Access at 916-497-0923, including policy coordinator Hanh Kim Quach, the author of this report, at hquach@health-access.org, or project director Elizabeth Abbott, who is tracking the SCHIP debate, at eabbott@health-access.org.

ASSEMBLY HEALTH VOTES FOR FIRST TIME THIS SESSION

The Assembly Health Committee convened its first hearing where they voted on bills Tuesday; two bills of interest to health advocates passed:

• AB51 (Dymally) would require the Department of Managed Health Care to develop a report card for Medicare Part D plans in the same way it grades other health plans. A previous bill, AB2170 (Chan) was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last year.

• AB55 (Dymally) would increase the eligibility for Medi-Cal for some adults to 133% of the federal poverty level.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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