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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                  
September 1, 2011

For More Information, Contact:
Melissa Figueroa (916) 651-4011 .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


SACRAMENTO – County governments will be better able to cover the growing number of California children who lack health insurance under legislation that passed the Assembly and the Senate today. Senate Bill 36, introduced by State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), enables counties that provide children’s health insurance to tap additional federal funds at no cost to the state. The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.

“During tough times, families of modest means are hit especially hard, and kids often suffer the most,” said Simitian. “There is federal money on the table to give at-risk kids the health insurance they need. And this bill gives participating counties a green light to access those funds at no cost to the state.”

By changing income-based eligibility limits in state law, Senate Bill 36 would enable County Health Initiatives in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, and in San Francisco, to cover more uninsured children. Simitian is hopeful that increased access to federal funds will produce similar initiatives in other counties.

Senate Bill 36 is sponsored by the County of San Mateo, whose Healthy Kids program currently provides health insurance to nearly 5,200 children who would otherwise lack insurance. County officials say that Simitian’s legislation would bring additional federal funds to the county each year, and allow even more kids to be covered. “On a statewide basis,” said Simitian, “we can access millions of federal dollars and help thousands of kids.”

“We are grateful for Senator Simitian’s leadership,” said Jean Fraser, San Mateo County Health System Chief.  “This bill would ensure that California and its counties draw down all available federal funding to support health insurance coverage for children, a critical priority.  As many San Mateo County families continue to be challenged by the slow economic recovery, we need every possible tool to promote the health of children.”

Senate Bill 36 updates California law to reflect changes made to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).  In 2009, the reauthorization of SCHIP and a directive from President Obama eliminated restrictions on federal funding for children between 300% and 400% of the federal poverty level.  Under SB 36, counties would receive federal funds when providing health insurance to those children.

While 400% of the national poverty level is a comfortable income in some places, in counties such as San Mateo, Santa Clara and San Francisco, where the cost of living is among the highest in the nation, it is the minimum necessary for self-sufficiency.

The bill also allows counties to cover children currently receiving care under the state’s Healthy Families Program in the event that the State’s budget situation results in cutbacks to Healthy Families. 

The federal government currently contributes approximately $2 for every $1 California spends insuring at-risk children through the Healthy Kids Program. For children above 300% the federal poverty level the match is $1. If state budget constraints force cuts to the Healthy Families Program, counties would also be able to cover those children – and keep the federal matching funds for providing that care.

“Health care is basic and essential,” Simitian said. “Accessing our fair share of federal dollars allows us to leverage the limited funding we do have at the state and local level, to reduce cost pressure on the state, and to give more help to more kids.”

“First and foremost, I want insurance coverage for these kids,” Simitian continued, “but I’m also trying to ensure that California takes advantage of federal funds that will, if unused, go to other states.”

Senate Bill 36 is a reintroduction of Senate Bill 1431, which Simitian authored for the 2010 legislative session. It passed the Legislature last year but was vetoed by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

For more information on SB 36, visit