Some Things Work 2

Health Initiative working, study says

PROGRAM PROVIDES INSURANCE FOR 29,000 IN TWO YEARS

By Frank Sweeney

Mercury News

Santa Clara County’s Children’s Health Initiative has proven far more successful than expected, providing insurance coverage for more than 29,000 youngsters in its first two years, according to an analysis of the program released today.

Launched 3 1/2 years ago to extend health coverage to uninsured children, the initiative spurred large enrollment increases for two major public health programs funded by state and federal governments — Medi-Cal and Healthy Families.

And it enrolled more than 15,000 children in the county-funded Healthy Kids program, designed to reach children who are either undocumented immigrants or whose families make too much money to qualify for the government-subsidized programs.

“It’s rather extraordinary. It’s a tremendous success,” said Joseph Macrum, spokesman for the Santa Clara Family Health Plan, a county agency that runs the initiative programs.

For single mothers such as Celia Gonzalez of San Jose, the program is the only way she can get health coverage for her 13-year-old son, Erick Villasenor, and her 3-year-old daughter, Valerie DeLatorre.

“This is absolutely the best way to get health care,” she said in Spanish, speaking through an interpreter at the Family Resource Center on South White Road in East San Jose, where people can enroll in the programs.

“This is absolutely the best way to get health care,” she said in Spanish, speaking through an interpreter at the Family Resource Center on South White Road in East San Jose, where people can enroll in the programs.

She heard about the initiative from friends and saw advertisements, then enrolled two years ago, she said. Before then, she had to take her children to emergency rooms, which she said was “very difficult.”

“I had to pay the doctor at the point of treatment. Just a simple consultation was $150, and then you have to buy the medicines,” said Gonzalez, who works as a waitress.

There are some things government has to do because nobody else can–or will. Santa Clara County defined a crying need in its poorest population–lack of medical insurance for kids–and instead of turning their backs or cutting their budget or blaming the population itself for being too poor to afford the insurance, they did something about it, and what they did worked.

Is Santa Clara County richer than every other county in the US? No. It’s priorities are different. It recognized that it was less expensive in the long run to provide affordable health care to its low income population than it was to have them filling up hospital emergency rooms that then had to be subsidized to keep them from going under. The Santa Clara County Program was developed by a coalition of organizations, agencies, and businesses (click the title and read the rest of the article) and funded by the tobacco tax. If they can do it, other counties–and states–can do it.

Why aren’t they?

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