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California expanded health insurance for children earlier in this decade, reducing the uninsured ranks by 12 percent, but additional progress has been stalled by the state's chronic budget deficit, according to a new statistical report by the California Healthcare Foundation, and coverage declined in 2008.

Reductions in Healthy Families and other programs aimed at working poor families lacking health insurance has been a major issue as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislators deal with its ongoing fiscal crisis.

Just last month, Schwarzenegger signed an emergency bill under which hospitals agreed to pay
$2 billion in fees to the state to qualify California for $2.3 billion in new matching money to hospitals and boost funding for children's insurance by $320 million and public hospital financing by another $310 million.

The Healthcare Foundation report says that expanding children's coverage dropped the state's uninsured rate to just above the national average of 11 percent, even though 80 percent of California's children are eligible for public programs.

It also notes that California's proportion of uninsured school children, 32 percent, is also slightly above the national average, and that as private employers cut back on employees' insurance, more children are being shifted to public programs.

The full report is available here.


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