Program to extend dental insurance coverage to uninsured children

Feb. 10, 2005
New initiative will also provide low-cost health and vision coverage to children from low-income families in San Luis Obispo, Calif., effective July 1.

Dozens of civic and community leaders gathered on Feb. 10 to announce the launch of a new program to bring low-cost health, dental and vision coverage to as many as 3,000 uninsured children in San Luis Obispo County.

Beginning July 1, San Luis Obispo (SLO) Healthy Kids will extend
comprehensive health benefits for as little as $9 per month to
children of families that earn less than 300 percent of the federal
poverty rate (family of four with an annual income of $56,000), but
are not eligible for existing state programs.

The California State Medi-Cal and Healthy Families programs extend similar coverage to children in households that earn below 250 percent the federal poverty rate, but many families above this level still lack access to affordable health insurance.

"This is a community-based healthcare model at its best," said Dr.
Rene Bravo, president of the Children's Health Initiative, a
not-for-profit organization incorporated last April. "SLO Healthy Kids features quality, low-cost coverage that will focus on preventing illness in our children before it occurs."

County Supervisor Katcho Achadjian, who chairs the county's First
5 Commission, said today's event at the Madonna Inn not only
celebrates the hard work of more than 90 community leaders who worked to bring about the new program, but also kicks off a public awareness campaign to help gain additional community-based support for the SLO Healthy Kids program.

"We are asking for business people, philanthropists and community organizations of all kinds to step up to the plate and join the Board of Supervisors, the First 5 Commission, the United Way and the other funding organizations who have already done so," said Achadjian. "SLO Healthy Kids is ready to begin its first phase of operations, but we will also need additional help if we are to reach the 3,000 children in our community who we know are underserved. Our cost to provide this insurance is $100 per month per child."

County Superintendent of Schools Julian Crocker, another early
supporter of the program, notes that the Children's Health Initiative plans to work aggressively through SLO Healthy Kids to make certain more children who are already eligible for the state's Medi-Cal and Healthy Families programs sign up for those free and low-cost benefits.

"We know that when children can attend school regularly without
health concerns, they are going to be more successful, and that's what makes this effort so exciting from an educational standpoint," Crocker said.

Officials say applications for SLO Healthy Kids will be accepted
beginning May 1, with the effective date of health, dental and vision coverage to begin July 1. To find out more about SLO Healthy Kids eligibility requirements, parents are invited call (805) 781-1602.

Today's event also included representation from a variety of
organizations participating in both the funding and administration of SLO Healthy Kids. Medical coverage will be offered through the Santa Barbara Regional Health Authority, dental benefits through Delta Dental of California and vision through Safeguard Health Enterprises.

"We're very pleased to be able to partner with our friends in San
Luis Obispo County," said the Health Authority's Executive Director, David Lamkin, whose agency is the oldest community-run health plan of its kind in the nation. "We plan to combine the effort being undertaken in San Luis Obispo County with a similar Healthy Kids effort underway in Santa Barbara County to create a truly regional Healthy Kids program -- the first of its kind in the State," Lamkin said.

Officials with Delta Dental, a nonprofit dental service
corporation headquartered in San Francisco, said dentists are
currently being recruited throughout San Luis Obispo County to
participate in the reduced, fee-for-service program. By tapping many of the same dentists who currently participate in the Denti-Cal and California Healthy Families dental programs, Delta Dental officials hope to establish an experienced network of local dentists already familiar with the special needs of the target population.

"Dentists who participate in this kind of program do so out of a
sincere commitment to improve public oral health," said Michael
Kaufmann, Delta Dental's senior vice president in charge of State
Government and Community Partnership Programs. "Our goal is to create as many points of access to the new dental program as possible, because we know from experience that dental care is one of the most widely used benefits under a Healthy Kids-type program."

With the launch of SLO Healthy Kids, San Luis Obispo County joins
several others around the state that have launched similar programs in recent years. Healthy Kids programs are now up and running in the counties of Riverside, San Francisco, San Bernardino, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.

Funding agencies and philanthropic organizations behind the SLO
Healthy Kids program include the County Board of Supervisors, the
County First 5 Commission, The California Healthcare Foundation and the Blue Shield of California Foundation