Enrollment Freeze for Healthy Families Set To Take Effect Today

TOPIC ALERT:

On Friday, California officials are scheduled to freeze enrollment for Healthy Families, the state's Children's Health Insurance Program, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reports.

Healthy Families currently provides health insurance to an estimated one million children and accepts about 29,000 new enrollees monthly.

Beneficiaries come from families whose incomes do not exceed 250% of the federal poverty level and do not qualify for Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program.

Ginny Puddefoot -- health policy deputy director of the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board, which administers Healthy Families -- said no children currently enrolled in the program will lose coverage when the freeze takes effect.

Budget Strain

State budgetary constraints precipitated the enrollment freeze, which will be the first in the program's 10 years of operation.

The state contributes $90 million to the program and receives double that amount in federal matching funds.

As part of an earlier budget plan, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) proposed eliminating Healthy Families. The move would have reduced state spending by $248 million.

Lawmakers rejected the governor's proposal, but instead called for the state to cut $74 million from the program.

Bailout From First 5?

In December 2008, Healthy Families faced a $17.2 million budget shortfall that would have required the program to institute a waiting list.

However, the program received gap funding from the First 5 California Commission, which administers grants for early childhood health and education services in the state.

On Wednesday, First 5 spokesperson Bill Madison said the commission would support Healthy Families again, but he did not indicate how much the group would contribute.

Some advocates doubt that the commission can provide sufficient funds to prevent the enrollment freeze (Hines, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 7/16).

Broadcast Coverage

On Friday, Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" reported on the enrollment freeze for Healthy Families.

Officials say the move could prevent more than 350,000 children from gaining health insurance coverage next year.

The segment includes comments from Robin Rudowitz, a health care policy expert with the Kaiser Family Foundation (Weiss, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 7/17).

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