Seven years ago, a group of Santa Cruz County leaders shared a vision. They wanted to provide California health insurance to every child in the county, regardless of immigration status or ability to pay. The program that grew out of that vision, called Healthy Kids, has proved an inspiring success for children’s health. Because of Healthy Kids, some 13,000 local children who might otherwise have been uninsured for California health insurance instead gained access to comprehensive health, dental and vision coverage.
Now, Healthy Kids’ leaders are scrambling to shore up the program, which is facing challenges that threaten its existence. Even the most optimistic advocates are unsure about its survival.
While several studies have documented the benefit of Healthy Kids programs in counties throughout California, fewer unnecessary hospitalizations, higher rates of preventive care, fewer missed school days. No one has figured out how to pay for them.
So far, only one county, Alameda, has shut down its Healthy Kids program entirely, although plenty of others are making contingency plans, and at least eight plan active disenrollment of children starting this spring for California health insurance.
But while California Kids might be a more affordable health insurance option for counties, it is facing many of the same problems as the county Healthy Kids California health insurance programs. California Kids may have to begin disenrolling the 6,000 children it covers in the next few months.