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Needy Calif. kids to lose insurance?

July 31, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The new California budget will cut $194 million from the Healthy Families program, which provides health insurance for poor children. Healthy Families had to stop taking enrollees two weeks ago. And with 133,000 kids already on the waiting list, many families that benefit from the program are left wondering if they will also be without coverage.Like many other needy California kids, Monique Kolster's two children are insured through Healthy Families, but budget cuts may force them out through what's called "disenrollment."

"Yeah, I find it very scary. It's very scary for me and my family ... terribly scary for those other million kids that might be denied health care now," said Monique.

The budget revision earlier this week included nearly $200 million in cuts to the program. California consequently lost almost double that in matching federal funds.

"All of those are very, very tough decisions. That's why I call them ugly, not bad, but ugly. Those are ugly cuts," said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-California) on Tuesday.

"Our Healthy Families program will be short $553.4 million," said Janette Lopez, California Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board.

The state board that administers Healthy Families is scrambling to either find other money, or cut costs to prevent the disenrollment of more than half a million kids.

At a hearing on Thursday, the board proposed eliminating vision, biofeedback, acupuncture and chiropractic services for kids to cut costs. The board is also considering raising co-pays, some of which are at no cost to the family.

Monique welcomes those ideas. She says she'd entertain anything that prevents losing health insurance.

"My husband has one more year in grad school. And we're just praying we will be able to be on the program one more year," said Monique.

Another state program called First 5 said it would contribute some money, but it won't be the entire amount needed. The board will decide how many kids will be disenrolled on August 13.

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