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Commentary

A healthy strategy
Los Angeles Times, 1-4-06

The L.A. Times argues that if Governor Schwarzenegger is serious about helping California's uninsured, he should expand the state's public insurance program for uninsured children, Healthy Families. This solution, however, will probably exacerbate the state’s current budget and healthcare woes.

The governor should look well beyond prescription drug purchase plans, which in other states have been lightly used by consumers. …
One bright spot that fully deserves the governor's backing is the state's Healthy Families insurance plan, which uses state and federal money to offer health coverage to the children of working families. Healthy Families is one of the few bright spots in California's troubled healthcare picture. Largely because of the program, health insurance coverage jumped from 83% of the state's children in 2000 to 88% in 2004, according to a UC Berkeley study, even as adults increasingly lost employer-based insurance. …
Healthy Families still offers the possibility of universal care for children, and some healthcare reform advocates see it as a model for state-provided health insurance for all. Users of Healthy Families are charged premiums on a sliding income scale. Families of four with earnings of about $48,000 a year are eligible.

Expanding state health insurance programs inevitably crowds out private coverage, and leads to more uninsured as private companies stop offering coverage for employees. This, in turn, siphons ever more resources from state coffers. Federal matching funds for these programs are fool’s gold, because state health care expenditures rise faster than revenues—as Medicaid crises in state after state demonstrate. Instead of getting putting more families on the public dole, California should be searching for ways to make private insurance more affordable.



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