Over the past few weeks I’ve been able to learn more about Healthy Families, a health insurance alternative for low and middle-income families. It provides low-cost care for children and teens up to 19 years of age. You can pay based on your income and some families pay as little as $4 a month per child.
With the proposed state budget legislators will vote on tomorrow, Healthy Families would be eliminated and nearly 1 million children would be transferred to Medi-Cal in order to save the state $13.1 million for 2012/2013 and more thereafter.
María de Lourdes Barajas’ four children have been beneficiaries of Healthy Families for the past 10 years. She is a hard-working, single mother who just graduated from the University of Redlands with a bachelor’s degree in business management. She and her family were so hospitable when my photographer and I came over her house last Thursday to interview her for a news report. She had Mexican “ceviche” waiting on the table for us! We all sat down together and her mother, Maria said blessing and as we had dinner, we talked about her fears and concerns after finding out her kids may be transferred from Healthy Families to Medi-Cal.
“By transferring all of these children from Healthy Families to Medi-Cal the quality and coverage may not be the same,” Maria said. Her son was diagnosed with ADHD and she fears his neurologist may not accept Medi-Cal. “Many doctors don’t accept Medi-Cal because they are saturated,” she added.
While on a teleconference with pediatricians, parents and non-profit organizations, I learned that 46% of the children in Healthy Families are Latino—about 165,000 in the Los Angeles area alone, according to Chad Silva, policy director for the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California.
Later in the phone call a mother of two who lives in Humboldt County explained she has already been transferred to Medi-Cal and that she has been waiting since November to see a Dentist since the only Medi-Cal provider is in Redding, a three-hour drive from her home. Dr. Gina Lewis, a pediatrician explained her concern for her patients and the burden they may have to face if their coverage costs go up. Under Medi-Cal some of her patients have to pay over $1,000 to see her for preventative care, she said. “It’s impossible, it would be impossible for me.”
If you are a Healthy Families beneficiary or if you know someone who is, I would encourage you to call assembly leaders, senate and even the governor’s office and let them know what you think.
Whether or not this program is eliminated, it was a clear consensus of everyone I interviewed and spoke with that Medi-Cal needs to be reformed and the quality for its patients needs to be improved. If there are changes you would like to see, you can pick up your phone and let legislators know what they are.