Press Democrat: CLOSE TO HOME - Sparing our children
Published: Monday, June 22, 2009 at 3:00 a.m.
One of our most basic human instincts is to protect our children. Throughout history, when danger or disaster strikes, children are rescued first.
Why? Because as humans, we are conditioned to first protect those who cannot protect themselves: our children.Today, California’s children are facing a grave danger as a result of our state’s unprecedented budget crisis: the elimination of the only source of health care coverage for at least a million California children, at precisely the time they need it most.
Instead of protecting those most vulnerable who are unable to protect themselves, the governor and many of our elected leaders are proposing to eliminate more health coverage.
Simple math and common sense tells us that eliminating the Healthy Families program, which currently provides health insurance coverage to more than 900,000 children in California, will only cost the state more money, not less. Instead of receiving preventive care and check-ups from pediatricians and dentists, the uninsured children would be forced to seek care at already overcrowded emergency rooms at a significantly higher cost.
A 2002 study found that California hospitals incurred nearly $329 million in uncompensated costs due to uninsured children seeking care. City and county hospitals end up providing care for the state’s uninsured children and youth, with taxpayers supporting well over half of the cost.
Pushing more kids onto the rolls of the uninsured will only add to taxpayer costs.
In Sonoma County, 10 percent of our kids (12,333) rely on Healthy Families insurance for their medical, dental and hospital care. If these cuts prevail, these kids will likely end up using the emergency room for their care. Studies have consistently shown that kids with insurance are more likely to get preventative medical and dental care and less likely to be hospitalized.
The Healthy Families program has enjoyed broad bipartisan support since its enactment more than a decade ago, and is a resounding success. That’s why Congress and the president voted earlier this year to reauthorize and increase funding for children’s coverage.
Given this infusion of available federal money, states like Alabama are now expanding their children’s coverage programs. Yet here in California, our leaders want to move us in the opposite direction and close down our program, resulting in the state losing up to $1.5 billion in federal aid next year.
Making matters worse, the governor also is proposing to cut Medi-Cal, jeopardizing California’s ability to collect federal stimulus funding and costing us even more money in the long run. At a time when California is in desperate need of revenue, why would we want to forfeit these federal dollars?
There has to be a better way for us to dig ourselves out of this financial crisis. Californians have consistently and overwhelmingly supported providing health coverage for children.
The special election results sent a clear message to our leaders in Sacramento that we expect them to do the job they were elected to do. Our kids should not pay the price for decades of political failures in Sacramento.
Let’s not balance this budget on the backs of California’s children.
Walter Collins is president and CEO of United Way of the Wine Country.