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February 11, 2008

Challenges Loom for Childrens' Health Insurance in California

Since President Bush did not renew the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or S-CHIP, California is grappling with the future of its version of the program that covers more than 900,000 kids. But many people don't realize the other looming challenge of getting health insurance for low-income children. From Sacramento Kelley Weiss explains.

This time California health officials are bracing for a federal law that will take effect in August. The law will cut back how much money a family can make to qualify. Bonnie Ferreira is with Cover the Kids. Her program, based in Sacramento, picks up children who don't qualify for Medicaid or Health Families, the state version of SCHIP. Right now there are 10,000 enrolled in Cover the Kids. Ferreira says she's worried that the new law will further strain the health care system.

Ferreira: Our local communities cannot afford to have all these kids uninsured. Where do they show up? They show up in high cost care, they show up in emergency rooms.

Dr. Patricia Samuelson works at the Norwood Clinic in Sacramento. In her practice, she sees a lot of kids without health insurance. She says the national veto and upcoming law could affect more than emergency rooms.

Samuelson: When your children don't have any medical insurance there are parents who don't let them play, don't let them ride their bikes for fear of injury.

But, some health officials say it could be worse.

Spingarn: I don't think anyone really believes at this point that there's going to be no federal funds and no state funds for this program in the future.

That's Ronald Spingarn with California's Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board that oversees Healthy Families. The good news, he says, is even with the national uncertainties California plans to add more than 65,000 kids to the program.

He also says the feds will give California money until September. But, from September to March 2009, when SCHIP is slated to end, he says there are no funding guarantees. So, while there are different predictions on just how SCHIP changes will impact California, officials agree it's a 'wait and see' scenario.

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Posted by healthinsurance at February 11, 2008 12:51 PM