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October 30, 2008

Grim Health Picture For California's Low-income Kids

There are some positives - the number of overweight children in California declined slightly and preschool enrollment increased. Yet the overall health picture, especially for California's low-income kids, is grim according to a new research brief "Trends in the Health of Young Children in California" by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and sponsored by First 5 California.

The brief found that two-thirds of California children are without health insurance are from low-income families. Low-income children utilize community clinics for primary care at three times the rate of higher income children. And the proportion of children enrolled in private health insurance is shrinking - while the reliance on public programs is growing.

"The research suggests there has been a steady erosion of health care and health access for the most vulnerable children," said David Grant, lead author of the policy research brief and director of the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS). "As Californians, we have a lot of work to do to reverse the trend."

The research brief examined trends in health among Californian children from a wide range of ethnicities and economic backgrounds. It is based upon an analysis of data collected by CHIS, the nation's largest state health survey, in 2001, 2003 and 2005. Conducted by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, CHIS surveys up to 50,000 Californians - including up to 10,000 children - every two years.

"There is no higher priority than the health and well-being of our children," said Kris Perry, executive director of First 5 California. "This research brief provides a valuable reminder of where our priorities must be, even at a time of scarce resources."

Researchers drew upon those interviews for "Trends in the Health of Young Children in California."

Among their findings:

Fewer overweight children: The prevalence of overweight children ages 0-5 dropped slightly in California from 14% in 2001 to 12% in 2005. There were steep drops in Riverside County (16.2% in 2003 to 12.4% in 2005) and San Bernardino County (16.2% in 2003 to 8.4% in 2005). Los Angeles County also dropped (14.3% in 2003 to 12.8% in 2005) as well as Alameda County (13.4% in 2003 to 8.9% in 2005) and San Diego County (12.9% in 2003 to 8.5% in 2005).

No improvement in health insurance coverage: The proportion of children ages 0-5 in California who lacked health insurance for all or part of the previous year - one in ten children - remained unchanged between 2001 and 2005.

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Posted by healthinsurance at 10:55 AM | Comments (0)

October 08, 2008

ABC's Dr. Tim Johnson, 15 Years of Shilling for Universal Health Care

ABC's liberal medical editor, Dr. Tim Johnson, appeared on Wednesday's "Good Morning America to boost Barack Obama's universal health care plan and critique the more market oriented proposals of John McCain. Co-host Robin Roberts began the segment by seriously asserting, "We're not endorsing one plan over the other. We're just showing the differences between the two."

But after she mentioned Obama's assertion during Tuesday's presidential debate that health care is a right, Johnson marveled, "But, I'm struck by the language of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Without good health, and that usually means without good health care, it's hard to have those other rights." Johnson, despite being a doctor, adopts the standard, liberal positions of most journalists and has a 15 year-plus history of advocating universal health care, including once asking if Republicans who opposed the policy were "immoral."

Regarding Senator McCain's idea to give people the opportunity to buy individual plans, even if they don't have an employer, Johnson criticized, "That's a difficult thing to do because there are so many different plans marketed." Accentuating the negative, he added, "So, you've got to do a lot of work on your own and read the fine print. It's a very difficult job for an individual."

Johnson found no such criticisms for Senator Obama's proposal. After describing the various health insurance plans the Democrat would offer, he approvingly observed, "But these plans will have been vetted by the government, just like they do for federal employees...But you know they've been vetted for basic care and coverage and that the cost is fair."

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Posted by healthinsurance at 03:24 PM | Comments (0)

October 05, 2008

California Health Coverage Costs are a Bit Lower

Cost increases for California health insurance premiums are lower this year, and although California’s are higher than some other states, they are also still lower than in previous years.

The Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust confirm what news wires also are reporting: nationally, the rise in cost of health care premiums is about 5 percent. This continues a trend from 2007, when a similar small cost increase was instituted.

However, according to Randy Jones of Hometown Insurance Services in Solvang, in California premiums are somewhat higher: “Ours in California, the rate went up higher than that. We’re getting a 10 percent rise,” he said.

Although the national increases were reported at the end of September, California’s current insurance rates are more difficult to come by. Insurance industry and regulatory agency figures found on the Internet indicate the 10 percent rise is in the ballpark.

“If increases aren’t as bad this year, they were pretty horrendous last year,” Jones continued. One reason California’s premiums are not shooting up, he said: “We’re healthier.”

Another reason that California’s health insurance premiums have stayed relatively low, according to Jones, is the result of a ballot measure from about 15 years ago. That measure was approved by voters, capping punitive damage amounts. “So insurance companies don’t have to approve every little thing for fear of being sued,” Jones said. “But the quality of California health care hasn’t changed.”

The Kaiser study showed that not only insurance premiums have shown a steady increase. “Cost sharing for medical services has also increased in recent years. The percentage of employers sponsoring insurance and the percentage of workers covered by employer-sponsored insurance remained stable over the past year.”

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Posted by healthinsurance at 03:33 PM | Comments (0)