By Wendy Lazarus, Founder, The Children’s Partnership
As we head into that time of year when our young people are graduating from high-school
and college, many commencement speeches will acknowledge the sacrifices many parents make to ensure their children succeed. Imagine how much more difficult that becomes when a child requires medical care and his or her parents are unable to access a doctor or health care coverage. As legislative leaders and the Governor wrestle over budget decisions to decide the fate of children who rely on Healthy Families, our state’s moms and dads deserve someone to stand up for them.
In a recent Capitol Weekly piece, I described the details of how health care for nearly a million California kids hangs in the balance as the Legislature completes its budget deliberations, which includes the Governor’s proposal to close the doors of the Healthy Families Program. The Legislature has an opportunity to pass what the Assembly and Senate Budget Subcommittees did: keep all kids, except those required by the ACA to move to the Medi-Cal program, in the Healthy Families Program. By any measure, Healthy Families is highly successful. California children who are newly enrolled in Healthy Families have been shown to have a nearly 63% improvement in performance and paying attention in class. Studies also show Healthy Families has substantially improved kids’ access to needed health care and produced meaningful improvements in their physical, mental, and social well-being.
The Governor plans to transfer nearly one million children in Healthy Families into California’s already overstretched Medi-Cal program over a brief nine-month period, starting in October 2012. Not only does it leave the Medi-Cal program inadequate time to prepare to receive so many new kids and get them set up properly in a new health care program, but families are already facing difficulties finding a doctor or dentist who will take their kids under Medi-Cal. So Medi-Cal needs more time to shore up the network of doctors for the children it already serves before stretching its capacity to add almost 900,000 more children. This is not the time to move nearly a million children from Healthy Families.
Instead of this overreach that could undermine the progress made in promoting healthy kids, a common sense, alternative approach is recommended by over 40 organizations. We recommend a more gradual shift, moving 200,000 Healthy Families kids into Medi-Cal-those kids who, based on the new federal health reform law, will be enrolled in Medi-Cal with their families by January 2014.
Last week, Governor Brown released a May revision to his budget proposal that ignored recommendations for an incremental approach. These huge disruptions to health care programs for nearly a million children do not even produce significant budget savings, so why put these children at risk? Any parent sending their graduates off to their future knows that being a parent is a tough job, 365 days a year. Today’s parents should not face a lack of access to health care for their children. The Governor and Legislators should protect the children covered in Healthy Families AND help parents and the families that rely on them to have healthier–and more secure– lives.
Wendy Lazarus, Founder & Co-President of The Children’s Partnership, has been an advocate for children, nationally and in California, for more than three decades.