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Reps. in a push for insurance

Citing that 6.8% of kids are without health benefits, Sherman and Schiff vote to give more.

February 09, 2009|By Jason Wells

GLENDALE — There were roughly 23,000 uninsured children in the two congressional districts that include Glendale and Burbank in 2007, according to a report released Wednesday.

The report from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research found that 6.8% of children in Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Brad Sherman’s districts were without health insurance in 2007.

And that “snapshot” in time, researchers warned, had likely worsened in tandem with the falling economy, since recent layoffs had undoubtedly cut more families off from employee health benefits.

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“The numbers should be cause for concern,” said E. Richard Brown, the center’s director.

The figures put the Glendale and Burbank congressional districts near the middle of the scale, with Bay Area districts containing the lowest proportions of uninsured children, at about 3.2%. Riverside County areas, including Temecula, Moreno Valley and Murrieta, had the highest rates, at 10%, according to the report.

Indications that economic hardships were growing the ranks of the uninsured have been reflected in the number of referrals through Glendale Healthy Kids, a nonprofit that connects low-income children with free health care through a network of medical providers who donate their services.

In the first half of this fiscal year, referrals increased 28% to about 1,000 children, Executive Director Camille Levee said, putting the organization on track to double its case load over the same period last year.

“We continue to see an increase in our numbers,” she said. “We do know that there are a lot more kids out there [without insurance].”

More and more applicants are also from families who earn too much to qualify for low-income programs, but not enough to cover private insurance, she said.

Those applicants were the target demographic of a $35-billion expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program reauthorization, signed by President Obama Wednesday afternoon.

The program, known as Healthy Families in California, provides health care to children in households that earn too much to qualify for low-income programs like Medicaid but that can’t afford their own insurance.

Schiff and Sherman voted along mostly party lines in the House of Representatives Wednesday to send the bill through.

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