California is not adequately meeting the health care needs of children living in the state, according to a report by Children Now, the Contra Costa Times reports (Harrington, Contra Costa Times, 1/7).
Details of Report
The report examined indicators for children's health, education and welfare in California.
It ranked children's well-being by grades of A through F. For each of the 27 categories, the report offered a:
- Review of progress; and
- Set of recommendations for action (Walters, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 1/7).
Overall, California scored:
The state scored highest -- a B+ -- for children's health coverage because of the increased availability of public health insurance programs, according to the Times. However, the report notes that 78% of the state's 738,000 children who are eligible for such programs are not enrolled in coverage.
For other health indicators, the report gave the state grades of:
- C- for developmental and behavioral health screenings;
- C- for access to health care;
- C- for health homes and care coordination;
- C- for obesity;
- D+ for oral health;
- D+ for school-based health services;
- D for home visits; and
- D for mental health services (Contra Costa Times, 1/7).
The report recommends that California streamline eligibility and enrollment systems to make it easier for children in the state to obtain and maintain health coverage.
It also suggests that California:
- "[D]ramatically expand funding" for early developmental and behavioral interventions;
- Renew the federally funded California Home Visiting Program;
- Increase Medi-Cal dentist reimbursement rates;
- Establish a coordinated and comprehensive health home for every child;
- Require health plans with which it contracts to make improvements in mental health service delivery and follow-up;
- Create a public policy agenda to address the multitude of factors underlying childhood obesity and support a state tax on sweetened beverages; and
- Ensure that critical behavioral and health screenings are available at schools (Children Now report, January 2014).
Ted Lempert, president of Children Now and a former state Assembly member, said, "The declining status of kids in California is the biggest threat to the health and economy of our state" ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 1/7).
Jonathan Kaplan, a senior policy analyst for California Budget Project, said, "California is spending less dollars than other states per student ... [y]et it has more resources than the rest of the U.S., and its students present greater challenges than those in the rest of the U.S.," adding, "[W]e're not rising to the challenge that our population presents."
During an interview in 2013, California Superintendent Tom Torlakson said that making improvements in all of the categories in the report -- including by helping one million students gain coverage through Covered California -- are high priorities for the state in 2014 (Contra Costa Times, 1/7).