One Million Kids in California Are Uninsured, and Most Qualify for Subsidized Programs

Categories: Health

Not much sadder than a sick child.
More than one million children in California do not have health insurance coverage, according to a report released this month by the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine.

The figure represents around 11 percent of the states minors. That rate, 1.5 percent higher than the national average, is bested by states like Georgia, Mississippi, and Arkansas, which are among the 38 states with a rate below 11 percent.

But before the small-government types throw tomatoes at California's health policy, there is a notable number from the report to consider: 76 percent of uninsured children are eligible for either Medi-Cal or Healthy Families, the state's two government subsidized health care programs.

Which suggests not a policy problem, but an implementation problem: California has done a poor job of bringing it's programs to the people.

As the recession has pushed people out of work, Medi-Cal's role has grown. Families with children 18 years old or younger are eligible for Medi-Cal if their income is at or below the federal poverty level, and eligible Healthy Families if their income is less than 2.5 times the poverty level.

In 2007, about 54 percent of children were covered through their parent's employer. Last year, that number dropped to 49 percent. Over that stretch, the percentage of kids covered through Medi-Cal or Healthy Families has jumped from around 31 percent to nearly 38 percent. Still, the rate of uninsured children kept steady at about 11 percent.

According to the study, the children without insurance "are three times more likely to forgo or delay care," and 18 percent of them have never been to the dentist. More than half of uninsured children has a parent with a full-time job. Two-thirds of them are Latino.

Medi-Cal coverage is expected to expand in 2014, when the Affordable Care Act hits full stride and the federal government sends states money to cover more low-income people. That year, 91 percent of uninsured children will be eligible for subsidized health care.

The trick, though, is translating eligibility into coverage.

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