- This op-ed is co-authored by Shelley Kessler, San Mateo Central Labor Council Executive Secretary/Treasurer and United Way of the Bay Area Board Member, and Eric McDonnell, United Way of the Bay Area Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer.
Four million of California’s poorest children, including 300,000 in the Bay Area, are in danger of losing their health coverage.
Congress – under pressure to shrink the national deficit – is backpedaling on key elements of the Affordable Care Act that ensure needy kids get basic health care.
When Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, it explicitly prohibited states from altering eligibility and enrollment requirements for children’s health insurance. In California, this means Healthy Families and Medi-Cal cannot create additional barriers to access and enrollment.
Unfortunately, there are members in Congress who are now advocating to repeal these provisions in a misguided effort to achieve short-term state and federal budget savings. As a result, California will be permitted to institute cuts to vital health safety net programs, reducing the ability of families to access care.
These proposed cuts could not come at a worse time. The recession has hit California families hard. U.S. Census figures released last week indicate that more than 6 million people in California – more than 2 million of them children – lived in poverty last year, an increase for the sixth straight year.
Record numbers lack health insurance. With statewide unemployment over 11 percent, thousands of families who relied on employer-based health coverage are now uninsured. As a result, their children are less likely to get preventative care and more likely to require costly emergency care.
Medi-Cal and Healthy Families are lifelines for California families who are struggling with unemployment and reductions in family health coverage on the job. This is clearly illustrated by the surge in Medi-Cal enrollment, which is up 12.5 % in the last three years, compared to just a 1.1% increase in the three years prior to the recession.
Children are relatively inexpensive to cover: children make up 41% of the total Medi-Cal enrollment, yet they only account for 19% of all Medi-Cal expenditures. When children take advantage of preventative care offered by insurance coverage, costly hospitalizations are prevented. Not to mention that healthy kids perform better in school, which helps prepare them for success in life.
In California, there are already 773,000 uninsured children living below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. That represents one of seven low-income, uninsured children nationally.
Let’s not put another 4 million California children at risk of losing their health coverage. Congress and the Administration should do everything they can to protect the health of our children by rejecting attempts to weaken Medi-Cal and Healthy Families.
If you care about protecting the health of our state’s most vulnerable children, call your Congressional Representative today and tell them, “No more cuts to health care and insurance for poor children.”