Teachers and insurance companies are pushing public insurance

By Jessica Brice The Associated Press
Thursday September 05, 2002

SACRAMENTO — California teachers and health insurance companies are teaming up to get more kids enrolled in the state’s public insurance programs. 

The California Teachers Association and the California Association of Health Plans announced Wednesday they are launching an outreach campaign to let more low-income and minority families know about the state’s no-cost Medi-Cal and low-cost Healthy Families programs. 

Roughly 1 million California kids are uninsured even though their families are eligible for public insurance, said Walter Zelman, president of the California Association of Health Plans. 

“We have made some progress, but not enough,” Zelman said. “One reason, we realized, was that virtually all outreach programs — ours and those of others — were missing one major link: California teachers.” 

The associations hope to train teachers about public health insurance programs and provide materials that can be handed out to students and parents. 

The programs are open to low-income and working families that earn up to 250 percent past the federal poverty limit, which is about $42,000 a year for a family of four. Entire families can get medical, dental and vision coverage for about $30 a month. 

The campaign is funded by a $500,000 grant from The California Endowment, a health foundation formed when Blue Cross of California converted from a nonprofit into a for-profit company. 

Educators and health officials hope the one-year campaign will lead to healthier kids and better performance in school. 

“We can’t teach to an empty desk, but we also know every kid deserves a healthy chance to learn,” said Wayne Johnson, president of the California Teachers Association.