California To Cover All Children In New Session
California Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D) said providing health coverage to all California children will be one of the issues he addresses within the first 120 days of the new legislative session, the Sacramento Bee reports. About 800,000 California children are uninsured.
Given the state's budget deficit, Steinberg's plan calls for using funding from foundations and the First 5 California Children and Families Commission to draw matching funds from the federal government to cover the cost of the coverage expansion. Funds also will be used to support existing programs. First 5 administers proceeds of a voter-approved tobacco tax for early childhood health care and education programs.
Steinberg has asked the California Endowment and First 5 each to give $50 million to the effort, but he does not plan to seek federal matching funds until President-elect Barack Obama is inaugurated. Obama has voiced support for expanding SCHIP, which is called Healthy Families in California.
However, the law that created First 5 prohibits funds from being used for existing programs. First 5 officials are considering potential ways for the program to contribute funding to Healthy Families, which could be frozen later this month because of funding issues. Steinberg has asked the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board, which administers Healthy Families, to delay the vote to freeze enrollment until the Legislature could consider his plan (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 12/7).
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