Business leaders and community organizers trooped to Camarillo Aug. 1 to hear about the healthcare crisis facing California and reform proposals sitting in the state legislature that could have an impact on Ventura County.
Sponsored by various organizations including the Ventura County Economic Development Foundation and the United Way of Ventura County, among others, the seminar’s two speakers came prepared with staggering figures from recent statewide studies as well as realistic outlooks on the different healthcare reforms.
According to a 2005 University of California, Los Angeles health insurance study, about 130,000, or 18.1 percent of Ventura County’s population younger than 65 have no health insurance coverage. About 27,000, or 20 percent, of the uninsured are children younger than 18.
To highlight the gravity of the children’s healthcare situation, Chuck Maxey, dean of the business school at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, gave the audience concrete examples to visualize the 27,000 uninsured children:
• 10.2 miles of a single-file line
• 771 classrooms of 35 kids each
• 3,000 AYSO soccer teams
• 1 month if 168 physicians were to give each child a one-hour physical exam
How does Ventura County compare to the rest of the state? In spite of the seeming affluence in the area, Ventura County is 48th out of California’s 58 counties. Maxey said it could be because the “working poor lack access to public programs and are unable to afford their employers’ healthcare offerings.”
“Healthcare reform is definitely a priority among our lawmakers,” said Kelly Brooks, the legislative director of the California State Association of Counties and one of the speakers. “There is some excitement in Sacramento about reforms this year, at least for the children.”
Since the state budget has not yet been finalized, there are increasing debates in Sacramento and intense discussion in order to reach an agreement over healthcare reforms.
So as not to lose sight of the big picture, Maxey was quick to add, “The goal is to have a reasonable quality of life for those who work honestly, and that includes healthcare.”
A quick look at the healthcare reform proposals:
The governor’s $12 billon health reform proposal will include all children regardless of immigration status and all legal adult residents of California. However, there are no bills pending in the legislature.
Assembly Bill 8, sponsored by Speaker of the California State Assembly Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles) and state Sen. Don Perata (D-East Bay), also called the Single Payer Program, will include all children up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level regardless of immigration status. Adults and their dependents will also be included if their employer pays into a purchasing pool.
Senate Bill 840, sponsored by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), promises to provide coverage for all California residents, regardless of immigration status. This proposal could also potentially eliminate Medi-Cal and the Healthy Families Program (HFP) as a single system is set up.
Assembly Bill 1, by assembly member John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) and Senate Bill 32, by Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), otherwise known as the Children’s Health Expansion, is similar to AB8 in that it will include coverage for all children up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, regardless of immigration status. Adults will not receive coverage under this proposal. Children below the 300 percent level will still be eligible for either Medical or HFP.