Healthy Families a Key to Healthy Kids

Published on
February 3, 2011

The Commonwealth Fund, the nationally recognized research, policy and philanthropic organization on health care, released a scorecard yesterday that ranks the states on their health care systems as they provide care to kids. California is in 44th place, part of a geographic swath of states in the west and southwest that were rated low because of critical indicators, such as rate of uninsurance for children, access to medical and dental care, and affordability.

It's more bad news for the state as it struggles with closing a Grand Canyon-like budget deficit, but it's no surprise to health care experts, like Dr. Claire Brindis, who I interviewed for my story in The Bay Citizen on the Commonwealth Fund report. Brindis is a pediatrian and director of the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies at UCSF. She noted that the state's large population of immigrants--a high, but unknown number of them undocumented--contributes to the higher uninsured rates for children. And it is a situation that causes what she termed a 'Sophie's Choice' predicament for parents who may have one U.S.-born child and another born in Mexico. The citizen child is eligible for Healthy Families; the Mexican-born child, like the parents, won't be. Which child will go to the doctor for well-baby visits and regular developmental check-ups?

Brindis was at first hesitant to discuss the situation of undocumented immigrants in California, noting that it is a controversial topic, one that has generated much heat without advancing toward policy solutions. But she said that no matter where you stand on the issue politically, it cannot be desireable for any child to forego health care. That's a basic truth that many could rally around.