Capitol Alert

California children’s health care improves, but their economic well-being lags

In this 2014 file photo, children run off the field following the playing of the National Anthem before the Sacramento Republic FC hosted the Charleston Battery at Bonney Field in Sacramento.
In this 2014 file photo, children run off the field following the playing of the National Anthem before the Sacramento Republic FC hosted the Charleston Battery at Bonney Field in Sacramento. jvillegas@sacbee.com

Thanks largely to its vigorous implementation of Obamacare, California has jumped from 26th to 14th in state-by-state rankings of children’s health wellbeing compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

However, the state still ranks 49th out of 50 states in children’s economic well-being, the foundation says in its annual report, and 38th in overall well-being.

The report’s profile of California counts 2.1 million California children living in poverty, 23 percent of the state’s youngsters, and five percentage points higher than in 2008, during the height of the Great Recession.

The 23 percent figure is very close to the Census Bureau’s calculation that 24.3 percent of Californians live in poverty, the nation’s highest percentage, when the cost of living, especially housing, is included in the formula.

The Casey report also notes that 3.1 million California children (34 percent) have parents who lack secure employment, also up from 30 percent in 2008, and 547,000 age-eligible children who are not attending preschool.

Ted Lempert, a former state legislator who now heads Children Now, a California advocacy group, finds the numbers troubling.

“California has the world’s eighth largest economy,” Lempert says in a statement accompanying the release of the latest Casey report. “We’re in a better position than most states to invest in kids, but support hasn’t kept up with pressures families have felt since the recession. We have more children living in poverty, and more parents lacking secure employment than we did in 2008. More must be done so all families can share in the economic recovery.”

Poverty, especially among children, has been a major focus of the Legislature this year. The new state budget expands child care slots and creates a new “earned income tax credit” to put cash in the pockets of the working poor.

California once had one of the nation’s largest proportions of medically uninsured residents but with Obamacare, several million more Californians now have coverage either through the Covered California health insurance exchange or Medi-Cal, the federal-state program that provides health care for the poor. The latter now has about 12 million enrollees, nearly a third of the state’s population.

The Casey report says that California children without health insurance dropped from 11 percent in 2008 to 7 percent in 2013.

  Comments