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July 09, 2008

Kids health insurance program in California to close

he countdown has begun for families served by the Alameda Alliance for Health's Healthy Kids program.

Phone calls and letters continue to roll out to families this week after the Alliance's June 30 announcement that it expects close the Healthy Kids program on Sept. 30 because of a lack of funding and diminished hope for the creation of a state universal health care plan for children.

"We had thought it was going to be a two-to-three-year effort to make the policy (changes) happen," said Alliance Chief Executive Officer Ingrid Lamirault, referring to policy that would provide universal health care coverage for all California children, regardless of their immigration status.

But the story of Healthy Kids has reached its final page without the happy ending for which administrators were hoping.

Proposed state legislation, which would have provided more coverage for children, stalled in January in the face of California's budget crisis. With the stall, the final phase of Healthy Kids in Alameda County began.

Started in 2005, the program provides low-cost, comprehensive coverage for 1,050 children in low-income families not eligible for government-funded programs like Medi-Cal. There are Healthy Kids programs in 30 counties statewide serving more than 80,000 children.

The program's closure could leave those children without any insurance options and further strain county clinics and emergency rooms which likely will become the primary care centers for the uninsured.

About 95 percent of the children in the Alameda County program are undocumented immigrants.

The program, like in other counties, had been funded by public and private grants, but six months ago, "things started unraveling," said Lamirault.

Earlier this year, two separate health care reform bills sponsored by state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, and former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, were held up in committee.

With hopes of universal health care legislation dashed at least for now, the program later learned it would lose more than half of its funding this year and the remainder over the next year and a half.

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Posted by healthinsurance at July 9, 2008 10:38 PM