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The health care threat

Posted: December 9, 2008 9:23 p.m.
Updated: December 10, 2008 4:55 a.m.
 
Lack of creativity, not lack of money, is threatening health care coverage for more than 160,000 children. Like most of the state's health-care safety net, California's Healthy Families program for uninsured children in low-income families is facing the budget ax.

The program's bureaucracy, acknowledging a $17.2 million shortfall, recently declared that the only way to stop the hemorrhage is to close enrollment on Dec. 18 and start a waiting list for the 27,000 new enrollees each month.

I'm frustrated these "solutions" give no better alternative than creating a waiting list for the medical, dental and vision needs of children without resources. As an oral surgeon for 30 years, I've treated the lifetime damage from a lack of basic childhood dental care.

There is a better way.

Re-allocate "First 5" commission money mandated by voters to support children's health care and fund Healthy Families instead of subsidizing cartoon shows ($4 million this year!), neighborhood parties, digital cameras and craft workshops.

Instead of shutting the doors of Healthy Families to California's kids, make the program financially sustainable by reforming its design to promote good care based on health needs, not political expediency.

Instead of "one size fits all" benefits that include acupuncture, biofeedback and inpatient drug rehab or abortion at no charge, Healthy Families should allow parents to choose plans that better fit their needs at a lower cost.

Thinking outside the box is better than falling through the safety net.

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