If a bill by Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) is signed by Gov. Jerry Brown this month, counties will be able to tap into federal funds to bring more children health insurance.
Senate Bill 36 will enable Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco counties to provide health insurance to children whose families are under 400 percent of the federal poverty line ($22,350 for a family of four) at no cost to the state.
Right now, federal law states that children under 400 percent of the federal poverty line are eligible for health coverage, but California has not yet officially taken note of the memo: Only those under 300 percent are receiving it.
“The challenge to provide children health care is particularly great in communities like Palo Alto where income is a high cost,” Simitian told Patch, pointing out that he wants to bring the coverage requirements up to California state standards. “Families of modest means will be able to provide their children health care [if the bill passes]”
The bill is sponsored by San Mateo County, which runs a Healthy Kids program, providing insurance to 5,200 children who would otherwise lack it, said Simitian spokeswoman Melissa Figueroa.
While 400 percent of the national poverty level is a comfortable income in some places, it is the minimum necessary for self-sufficiency in places like Palo Alto, said Simitian.
Furthermore, “if these kids aren’t provided health care now,” said Simitian, “they end up in the emergency room getting the most expensive care and costing the state more.”
Senate Bill 36 is a reintroduction of Senate Bill 1431, which Simitian pushed through the Senate last year. While it made it to the Legislature, it was vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The bill is a win-win situation, said Simitian, because the federal money for the program is already available for state use.
“We’re leaving federal money on the table,” he said, “and local kids uninsured.”