Health care. State legislatures debate it. Policy makers regulate it. And for mothers like Maria Ochoa, it is a matter of life and death.
When her son Dante was six, he became ill and needed an operation to correct a previous surgery. With no insurance and unable to afford the corrective procedure, Maria brought Dante back to her native Mexico for the operation.
"It was a disaster," she says. When Dante returned home to the U.S. he developed serious post-op infections. Maria got a prescription for antibiotics but didn't have the money to afford the medicine.
As a result, Dante was taken to emergency rooms four times. "He couldn't go to school," Maria says. "He lost ten pounds. Things were very hard for us until Dante and his brother became Child Health Plan Members."
Designed for the children of low-income families who are not eligible for Medic-Cal, the Kaiser Permanente Child Health Plan provides health care coverage for as little as $8 per month, per child. The program, now in its tenth year, helps strengthen the health care safety net by catching the kids that otherwise fall through the cracks in the public health care system. Through direct grants to communities, partnerships with local health agencies, and outreach efforts such as the 100% Campaign underway in six counties in California that participate in Children's Health Initiatives, Kaiser Permanente is actively enrolling the children of eligible families. Recently, the Kaiser Cares For Kids and the 100% Campaign rolled out the program to two schools in the Santa Ana Unified School district. 100% of the kids—every single student in every single classroom—were eligible and able to enroll in the Child Health Plan. In 2008, 54,000 children are enrolled statewide in California.
Two weeks after the family enrolled, Dante was able to have his operation. He hasn't been back to an emergency room since.
Because of his operations and infections, Dante missed an entire year of school. Today, his mother reports, Dante is a thriving, healthy 9-year-old. He is catching up in school, taking advanced math and science classes, and scoring in the top ten percent of his class.
"I am so happy to have the Child Health Plan for my children. I tell my family and friends about the good care they receive. Thank you, Kaiser Permanente for helping my children."
-- Maria Ochoa