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November 30, 2012

Healthy Families' demise discussed

The transition of 900,000 children in the state's Healthy Families program to much-maligned Medi-Cal coverage was a top concern for state and local officials who gathered Friday morning in Modesto for a briefing on health care.

The transition of 900,000 children in the state's Healthy Families program to much-maligned Medi-Cal coverage was a top concern for state and local officials who gathered Friday morning in Modesto for a briefing on health care.

Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen of Modesto, who leads the Legislature's Rural Caucus, oversaw the panel discussions at Modesto Centre Plaza. Experts on rural health discussed the latest information on health reform, California's Health Benefit Exchange and barriers to health care in rural areas of California.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that will move children of working-poor parents from Healthy Families to Medi-Cal in four stages next year. Local agencies expect to run into problems with enrollment and outreach, and there are big questions about whether young patients will have access to doctors, said Chad Silva, policy director for the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California.

Another speaker said county health agencies have tried in vain to get specifics on the transition from the state, even though the transition is set to begin in four weeks. Despite a growing cry for state leaders to delay the dismantling of Healthy Families, there appears to be no movement in Sacramento to repeal the bill, said Sarah de Guia, director of government affairs for the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network.

Rural counties are bracing for national health reform and other changes that will affect the way people get access to doctors and hospital care. Speakers at Friday's briefing noted that 44 of the state's 58 counties are considered rural and are home to 5.3 million residents. Many of those counties have large numbers of uninsured people and barriers to health care that are not well understood to policymakers in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or (209) 578-2321.

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