$500,000 For Uninsured Marin Children
The First 5 Marin Children and Families
Commission (First 5 Marin) announced in June an investment of $500,000 as its
first year commitment to provide access to health insurance for all children
from birth to age 5 who live in Marin County.
Funds will cover insurance costs for children in the county who are ineligible for other publicly funded insurance programs and increase outreach efforts to enroll children. The countywide health insurance program is expected to launch in January 2004.
Currently, health insurance for children in Marin County is provided in a patchwork manner, with different programs dependent on a child's age and family income. Medi-Cal and Healthy Families, for example, offer health coverage to children living in families earning incomes up to 133 percent and 250 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), respectively. First 5 Marin's funds will expand coverage to all children ages 0 to 5 by increasing the maximum income level to 300 percent of the FPL ($54,300 annual income for a family of four).
First 5 Marin is working with others in Marin County to ensure that all children up to age 18 receive comprehensive health coverage. Research shows that approximately 3,000 children in Marin lack health insurance.
"Ensuring children's access to health care is the cornerstone of a healthy community," said First 5 Marin Commissioner and Marin County Supervisor Steve Kinsey. "Access to health care means that children stay healthy, receive the care they need and avoid problems that can hinder their early learning. It's also a smart investment that will save the county and state money down the road. First 5, however, cannot do it alone. We look forward to our continuing work with others in the county to extend this commitment to all children up to age 18."
According to the Children's Defense Fund, children without health coverage have a 150 percent higher death rate than insured children. Studies show that children with health insurance receive more regular and preventive health care and continue to lead healthier lives, resulting in lower health care costs in the future. Parents are also five times more likely to seek treatment for their uninsured children at emergency rooms as their regular source of care than children who have insurance.
When children forgo doctors' visits for chronic illnesses due to lack of health coverage, they don't receive the medical care they need to stay healthy and as a result, miss school. Children without insurance are absent from school 25 percent more often than children with insurance. Studies also show that high absentee rates lead to lower academic achievement.
Research shows that a child's brain develops most dramatically in the first five years and what parents and caregivers do during these years to support their child's growth will have a meaningful impact throughout life. Based on this research, California voters passed Proposition 10 in 1998, adding a 50 cents-per-pack tax on cigarettes to support programs for expectant parents and children ages 0 to 5. By 2004, First 5 Marin Children and Families Commission will distribute approximately $5 million in Prop. 10 revenues to programs and services that meet local needs.