CA considers health insurance plan freeze

November 14, 2008 6:53:13 PM PST
State legislators are not dealing quickly and decisively with California's budget crisis. Only about half of the members of the Assembly Budget Committee met Friday for the first time since Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called for an emergency legislative session more than a week ago. There is a $11 billion gap to close this fiscal year. There is one program that may be frozen that will directly affect sick children and their families.

Born with a digestive problem, little Tadd Sexton needed three surgeries and relied on a state-funded health insurance program called Healthy Families to make him all better.

"It's meant everything for us. It's meant great health care coverage for our son and our whole family," said Jason Sexton, Healthy Families participant.

More than 900,000 California kids are enrolled in Healthy Families and would not have health insurance otherwise. But at a time when parents are losing their jobs and health benefits, the state, for the first time ever, is considering freezing enrollment and starting a waiting list.

"The timing couldn't be worse. Right now, in these tough economic times, families are turning to Healthy Families to provide the health coverage for their kids that they're losing," said Krystal Moreno Lee with Children Now

Roughly 27,000 kids a month have been joining Healthy Families in the past year, pushing the program $17 million dollars over budget.

Asking state leaders for the money is out of the question because there is none, as tax revenues sharply decline. Gov. Schwarzenegger says he really did not want to propose freezing enrollment.

"That is a dilemma we always face when there's an economic decline, that we can't spend money we don't have," said Gov. Schwarzenegger.

President-elect Barack Obama has said he would make children's healthcare a priority. But he takes office in January, and the state needs to make a decision by mid-December to ensure there is enough money for the kids currently in the program.

The Sextons hope the budget situation does not get so bad that the state will have to start kicking families off its insurance rolls.

"Children come first. We can't have children without healthcare," said Sexton.


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