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National Foundation Marks Children's Health Anniversary with Grant to Help Cover More California Kids

Feb 09, 2011

Oakland, CA – Children Now, The Children’s Partnership, United Ways of California, and the California Children’s Health Initiatives announced the receipt of grants today from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation under the Foundation’s Insuring America’s Children: Getting to the Finish Line initiative. These organizations partner with Children’s Defense Fund – California and PICO California in their children’s health work. These grants coincide with the two-year anniversary of the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and will support the organizations in their work to advance policies and best practices that can help cover California children and their families.

Health insurance coverage through Medicaid and CHIP allows children to get the preventive care they need to stay healthy and see a doctor when sick or injured. Benefits of quality health care for kids extend well beyond a child’s health, affecting a child’s performance in school and a family’s economic security.

“Advocates, business leaders, and faith leaders have worked together to deliver real wins for California children. Through their efforts, California has strengthened Medicaid and CHIP enabling thousands of California’s children to get the care they need.” said Carol S. Larson, president and CEO of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Despite unprecedented state budget challenges and a deep recession, the number of uninsured children in California has stayed level since 2001. However, 1.5 million California children are still uninsured, so much work remains to be done.

As the economic downturn has cost working families their health insurance along with their jobs, Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) and CHIP (Healthy Families in California) have helped keep children covered. California has improved and protected coverage for children through a set of policy and practice changes during an unprecedented period of budget deficits, including:

  • Maintaining coverage for nearly a million children by working with hospitals, health plans, and First 5 California to find alternative funding sources for Healthy Families;
  • Providing health care coverage for nearly 4.5 million California children, including 55,000 covered through local Children’s Health Initiatives;
  • Jump-starting outreach efforts to inform parents of California’s 700,000 eligible but uninsured children about Healthy Families and Medi-Cal.

These improvements have helped thousands of California families ensure that children get the care they need.

One local example is the Magdaleno family of Orange County. Fabby Magdaleno’s husband, Gil, was laid off and lost the health benefits that covered the entire family.  Fabby remebers being devastated and wondering: “What are we going to do? We can’t go without insurance for our kids.”  For the Magdaleno family, health care is absolutely critical, because their daughter, Eva, was born with craniosynostosis, a condition that causes skull sutures to fuse together. Eva’s condition requires her to have numerous surgeries, and Fabby recalls thinking, “When we were uninsured, we wouldn’t have been able to afford that.” Relief came once she heard that her daughters qualified for Healthy Families. Fabby immediately called her whole family and exclaimed, “We have insurance now! We’re so thankful.”

“Children going without health insurance is a problem that we can solve in California – and our kids, our families, and our state will be stronger as a result. The grants, along with new federal tools and resources, can help California to reach the finish line and cover every uninsured child,” said Wendy Lazarus, Founder and Co-President and of The Children’s Partnership.

The 2009 CHIP reauthorization law strengthened the partnership between the federal government and California’s government on children’s health coverage. The CHIP reauthorization law provides incentives, including hundreds of millions of dollars in performance bonuses and other supports for states committed to making CHIP and Medicaid even more effective. Taking advantage of these opportunities would make California eligible for millions of dollars in federal funding.

“There is no better way to mark the anniversary of the CHIP reauthorization law than to recommit to covering uninsured kids. With new national resources and tools and smart, dedicated advocates to work with, California can get the job done,” said Joan Alker, co-executive director at the Georgetown Center for Children and Families (CCF).

CCF, an independent, nonpartisan policy and research center based at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute, provides policy and communications support to California Children’s Health Initiatives, United Ways of California, The Children’s Partnership, Children Now, and other Getting to the Finish Line grantee organizations. Getting to the Finish Line grantees will work closely with state policymakers to identify and advance opportunities to cover additional uninsured children and keep them insured, by eliminating administrative barriers and improving the effectiveness and reach of CHIP and Medicaid.

Since 2007, the Packard Foundation’s Insuring America’s Children: States Leading the Way grantmaking strategy has invested in state-based children’s health advocacy organizations. Along with California-based groups, advocates in nine other states have received 2011 Finish Line grant awards from the Packard Foundation.

“This is a tough budget year, and it will be even tougher for the millions of California families struggling to stay afloat through the worst economy in decades. However, if our leaders in Sacramento maintain their bipartisan commitment to covering uninsured kids, we can keep more children healthy and strengthen their families,” said Ted Lempert, President of Children Now.

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