No gambling with kids’ health

Roger Dickinson is a Sacramento County supervisor, chair of First 5 Sacramento, and a governing board member of Healthy Kids, Healthy Future, a regional program to provide health insurance to children.

For most of us, when our children get sick, skin their knees or need preventive care, we simply take them to the doctor. But for the more than 25,000 children in Sacramento County without health insurance, a visit to the doctor is not an option. Instead, their families “make do” or wait until the problem becomes a crisis, and then the family takes a costly trip to the emergency room.

Nearly 46 million Americans—including 8 million children—are living without health insurance, forced to gamble each day that they won’t get sick or injured. Uninsured Americans live sicker and die younger than those with health insurance. Just one serious illness or injury can wipe out an uninsured family’s bank account.

While California offers health insurance for children through the Medi-Cal and Healthy Families programs, up to two-thirds of the children under the age of 18 who are eligible are not enrolled due to a lack of awareness on the part of their families, a complicated enrollment process, language and cultural barriers and/or immigration status. In addition, approximately 15,000 children in Sacramento, Colusa, El Dorado and Yuba counties are not eligible for Medi-Cal or Healthy Families coverage, even though their families earn less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level.

In Sacramento, Colusa, El Dorado and Yuba counties, we’re not waiting for a national solution to cover our children. We’ve banded together to create Healthy Kids, Healthy Future, a regional nonprofit that administers Healthy Kids, which provides medical, dental and vision insurance coverage for children whose families cannot afford private insurance and who are not eligible for other types of health programs. In addition to reaching out to these children and their families by offering Healthy Kids, we are stepping up our efforts to provide an integrated health-insurance outreach, enrollment and retention program.

Please take a moment, look around you and see if you know a family with children who do not have health insurance. Suggest those families call toll free, (888) 513-KIDS for more information. Living without health insurance is a gamble no family should have to take.