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The State

Study Says Day-Care Can Aid in Insuring Children

About 170,000 youngsters could be added to government health programs if parents were provided the information, researchers find.

September 17, 2003|From Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — The state could add about 170,000 children to government subsidized health insurance programs by working with child-care providers, a study released today found.

Nearly 1 million children are uninsured in California, but more than two-thirds of those are eligible for Medi-Cal, Healthy Families or county health insurance programs, said authors of the study by the 100 Percent Campaign.

Parents often aren't aware that they qualify for the subsidized health care, said Deena Lahn, lead author of the report, "Go Where They Are: Working With Child Care Programs to Reach Uninsured California Children."

"Finding these children, enrolling them in health insurance and keeping them enrolled is key to their healthy development and school readiness," she said.

Medi-Cal provides free or low-cost health services to children in low-income families. Healthy Families offers low-cost insurance to children in families that make too much to qualify for Medi-Cal, but less than 250% of the federal poverty level -- approximately $38,000 a year for a family of four.

Some California counties, including Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Francisco and Los Angeles, also have created their own health insurance systems to cover the children of working families who earn too much to qualify for either state-run program but can't afford coverage through their jobs.

The money for Medi-Cal and Healthy Families outreach programs were cut in the last budget, Lahn said, so advocates looked for efficient ways to reach uninsured children.

"We already have great outreach at the schools," she said.

"We need to look at the younger kids, though, and they're in child care."

Some counties already use child-care providers to get the word out about health insurance.

"San Diego County does a great job," Lahn said. "They have enrolled 3,000 kids just by asking the question and saying here is who will help you enroll."

The study didn't calculate the cost of adding 170,000 to the programs.

Medi-Cal is a program funded jointly by state and federal money, while the state gets $2 in federal money for each dollar it spends on Healthy Families.

"These kids are already eligible for the coverage," Lahn said, adding that the state would avoid the cost of having those children treated in emergency rooms.

The study recommends that day-care providers learn about the programs, find out where to refer people and then give this information to parents, she said.

State agencies could send that information to child-care providers when sending licensing information, Lahn said.

The 100 Percent Campaign is a coalition of children's advocacy groups, including Children Now, Children's Defense Fund and the Children's Partnership.

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