Fewer Uninsured Kids in State, but Program Responsible for Drop Is Now Gone

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


California has had marked success since 2009 at getting more children medically insured—and, consequently, provided with better health care—but the program critical to that success was axed this year by Governor Jerry Brown’s budget.

A study by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute found that the number of California children under 18 without insurance declined 146,201, from 890,998 to 744,797 between 2009 and 2011. That was the 12th best percentage improvement in the country and 17% of the total number of American youth who gained insurance. Still, California only ranked 35th among states in percentage of insured children.

The study used data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

But the Healthy Families Program, a joint state-federal program credited by the study with significantly contributing to the drop in uninsured kids, was a victim of mid-year budget cuts. Healthy Families―a child of the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), created in 1977―provides low-cost health, dental, and vision coverage for low-income children whose parents still made too much money to qualify for Medi-Cal.

The Brown administration is hoping to save $72 million a year by shifting 880,000 kids to Medi-Cal. But critics question the math and allege that care for children will decline as a result. The move, which involves switching doctors and insurers, comes barely a year before President Obama’s Affordable Care Act will require yet more change.

Health care advocates were outraged in June when it became apparent that Democratic legislators were prepared to strike a deal with the governor to drop Health Families. “The Governor and legislative leaders have struck a short-sighted deal that unnecessarily puts the health of California children at risk,” Wendy Lazarus, founder and co-president of The Children’s Partnership, wrote in a statement at the time.

“While we understand that hard budget choices had to be made, those choices should not fall on the backs of our children and their ability to get the care they need to stay healthy and succeed in life.”

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

California Has Lowered Number of Medically Uninsured Children (by Dan Walters, Sacramento Bee)

Uninsured Children 2009-2011: Charting the Nation’s Progress (by Joan Alker, Tara Mancini and Martha Heberlein, Georgetown University Health Policy Institute) (pdf)

California Should Restore the Healthy Families Program (Los Angeles Times editorial)

Advocates Angered by Healthy Families Elimination (by Daniel Weintraub, HealthyCal.com)


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