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Daily Journal
April 28, 2022

New county program gives health care to low-income kids

The day after getting married, Juan Vazquez and Juana Ojeda axed going on a honeymoon. Rather, the couple spent Saturday signing up their daughter, Karla, for county-sponsored health insurance at Sequoia High School's third annual health fair in Redwood City.

Eleven-month-old Karla is one of about 25 who applied at the health fair for Healthy Kids, the new San Mateo County comprehensive children's health care program. Since January, more than 2,000 children in the county have been enrolled in health coverage.

Healthy Kids, developed by the county's Children's Health Initiative, bridges the gap for those who cannot qualify for federal and state-funded programs like Medi-Cal and Healthy Families. The program is geared to provide health, vision and dental insurance for about 17,000 uninsured children in the county.
CHI estimates that 14,600 uninsured children will be covered by the initiative with 9,250 covered through Medi-Cal and Healthy Families and 5,350 covered by Healthy Kids.

"We have a simple message, that every child can have health insurance," CHI manager Toby Douglas said. "There is no reason anymore that kids can go without health insurance."

CHI officials found that nine out of 10 uninsured children come from hard-working families trying to provide for their children in jobs without health benefits.
Vazquez, 30, works for a landscape construction firm based in San Carlos. He's worked in the construction field for 11 years, and now earns about $3,800 per month. While that may be decent pay, his firm does not offer health benefits for him or his family.

"Just a few holidays pay, that's all," Vasquez said. His wife Juana, a 29-year-old restaurant hostess, can purchase Kaiser health insurance through her employer. Juana deemed it too expensive * $100 deduction every two weeks, which did not include coverage for Karla.

Based on her income, Juana enrolled Karla into Medi-Cal. However, with an increase in the family's joint income * $4,800 per month* Vasquez and Ojeda realized they would have to find an alternative.

Healthy Kids answered the call. Based on the family's size and monthly income, Karla's parents enrolled her into overall health insurance for $60 per quarter. While $5 co-payments for doctor's visits and prescription drugs apply, this is a win for Karla.

"That's what they would charge me every two weeks at my job [just for Karla]," Ojeda said.

Vazquez wanted to get health insurance for the entire family during their visit to the health fair, but was relieved that his daughter had affordable health insurance.

"She's so little that a lot of things could happen," Vazquez said.
CHI advocate Sandra Vivanco stressed preventative health care could save parents a lot of money. If parents wait to take their children to the doctor, she said that they eventually end up in the emergency room where the bill could be much higher.

"It's really hard for a parent to take their kids to the doctor without insurance because they are afraid of the bill that they are going to get in the mail," Vivanco said. "If I have insurance, I'm more likely to take my child to the doctor."

At each enrollment event, certified applicant assistants throughout the county help families to understand the enrollment process, encourage them to value health coverage and breakdown the fears and concerns when applying for public assistance. While the enrollment for Healthy Kids is their priority, each family is screened for possible enrollment into Medi-Cal or Healthy Families.

While CHI is a private and public partnership, it provides medical access to about 100 private doctors listed with the Health Plan of San Mateo, which administers the Healthy Kids program.

CHI advocate, Claudia Flores said the majority of enrollments have been for Spanish-speaking or low-income families, "but our goal is to reach those middle-income families" because so often, those families do not even know that they qualify for Healthy Kids. They hope to continue reaching families by visiting schools, churches and other community forums to spread the word.

"When it comes to kids, it's the best thing parents can do for them," Vivanco said.

CHI's $8 million budget is primarily funded by First 5 San Mateo County, Sequoia and Peninsula Healthcare Districts and the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.

"We have a solid base of suppliers, but we need local donors," Douglas said.
CHI provides weekend and Monday evening enrollments for Medi-Cal, Healthy Families and Healthy Kids. Applicants should be ready to provide proof of age, residency and income. For more information or to donate time or money, call CHI at 573 2095.