Acupuncture Continuing Education

Obama's Health Insurance Covers California Children & COBRA

A recent study at the University of California, Los Angeles, reveals that 8.2 million Californians are without health insurance. This is a 28% increase from the 6.4 million uninsured Californians in 2007. The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research study notes that approximately 2 million Californians lost health insurance coverage from 2008 to 2009 bringing the total to over 8 million uninsured. Currently, 25% of all California residents do not have health insurance. The study cites rising unemployment rates and health insurance premium increases as major contributing factors to this problem. The study was funded by the California Endowment and The California Wellness Foundation. The California Endowment is a private organization dedicated to improving health care coverage and health benefits. The California Wellness Foundation helps California citizens by providing grants for healthcare, health education, and disease prevention.

The federal government eased the strain on recently unemployed workers by providing subsidies for health insurance coverage under COBRA through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). ARRA was signed into law by President Obama. This helps to maintain health insurance coverage for large numbers of unemployed workers. COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985) is a law passed by the US Congress and signed by President Reagan. The law mandates that insurance companies give employees the option to continue health insurance coverage after leaving or losing employment. Despite the infusion of federal assistance through the ARRA, many cannot afford the COBRA health insurance premiums and lose their health insurance anyway. However, the UCLA study concluded the utilization of COBRA by laid-off employees doubled with the addition of the federal ARRA assistance. The federal subsidy to COBRA health insurance coverage made continuing health insurance coverage possible for large numbers of people.

1.1 million children in California did not have health insurance in 2007 rising to 1.5 million children in 2009. The study noted that public coverage expanded to assist children thereby keeping the rate of uninsured children relatively low in comparison to adults. The Medi-Cal and Healthy Families programs provide what the study describes as a “substantial safety net” for children. Approximately one out of every three children in California receive their healthcare benefits through the Healthy Families or Medi-Cal programs. Due to lack of funds, the Healthy families program was forced to freeze enrollment. Governor Schwarzenegger is pushing for the elimination of the Healthy Families program and reducing Medi-Cal benefits to the minimum amount required by federal law. The UCLA study notes that “an immediate increase in federal support for the state’s Medi-Cal and Healthy Families programs would stabilize the health care safety net. In addition, national health care reform could help stabilize health insurance markets in the state and provide more, and more stable, opportunities for Californians to obtain affordable health insurance coverage.”

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), also known as “the Stimulus”, was passed into law by President Barack Obama on February 17, 2009 and provides the federal government with the means to increase federal health insurance subsidies to Californians. The Stimulus cut federal taxes and expands unemployment benefits, education spending, healthcare benefits, energy sector investments, and infrastructure development. The ARRA stimulus is intended to create jobs and promote investment during the current economic recession. This is Keynesian economics which argues that government spending can compensate for a drop in consumer spending during economic downturns. No Republicans in the US House of Representatives voted for the bill. Three Republican Senators voted for the ARRA. Although the bulk of the ARRA focuses on stabilizing and promoting economic development, it also includes limitations on executive compensation in banks receiving federal assistance. The ARRA provides tax cuts and expands healthcare spending. Medicaid received over $85 billion and COBRA received nearly $25 billion. ARRA expands medical care for the military and their families, funds prevention and wellness programs, contributes to the Veterans Health Administration, funds healthcare services on Indian reservations, promotes health related research at the NIH (National Institutes of Health), expands payments for Community Health Centers, and funds the development of health information technology.