A Glimmer of Good News for California’s Kids
By Mike Odeh
With the state’s unemployment rate hovering above 11 percent, impending state budget triggers that are inciting rallies across the state, and 52% growth in health insurance premiums for California families over nearly the past decade, it's hard to find truly good news...but here's some: at a time when the economic recession hit hardest (2008 to 2010), over 97,000 fewer California children were uninsured, according to a new report by the Georgetown Center for Children and Families.
This is good news because we know that kids grow healthier and learn better when they have quality health care coverage.
Much of the reduction in the number of uninsured kids can be attributed to the existence of Medi-Cal and the Healthy Families Program. These critical programs provide comprehensive health coverage for eligible low-income children that the vast majority of parents are satisfied with. Medi-Cal and the Healthy Families have filled the insurance void for children left by the shedding of employer-sponsored insurance, as an analysis by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research points out.
There are good reasons to believe that more children will see this trend of increasing insurance coverage:
First, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 is already in full effect in California. In 2011 alone, hundreds of thousands of Californian children and youth gained coverage when children were no longer allowed to be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions and when young adults could remain on their parents’ coverage up to age 26.
The California Health Benefit Exchange (HBEX) is working in overdrive to get up and running by 2014. In part, that means developing a seamless eligibility and enrollment system that will make it easier for families to enroll in health coverage - including for the 2 out of 3 uninsured California children who are eligible and could enroll in Medi-Cal or Healthy Families today but have not yet enrolled. There's also a lot of good work being done to figure out how to make the enrollment experience work best for consumers and ensure there is appropriate and adequate assistance available to help families navigate the complex health care world.
Hundreds of thousands of kids will get affordable coverage through the HBEX's individual and small business markets, and even more will have more secure coverage through their parents’ employers as a result of the ACA.
A new Health Affairs article finds that upon full ACA implementation, an estimated 3.2 million children can be expected to gain health care coverage nationally, and up to 95% of all children will have health coverage. Despite the enormous amount of work that still needs to be done, the ACA opportunities before California can bring us much closer to the more than decade-long goal of 100%coverage for all children...and that's some good news for California’s kids!
Mike Odeh works with Children Now, a nonpartisan research and advocacy organization working to raise children's well-being to the top of the national policy agenda.