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California has seen the worst of the recession, with an unemployment rate that has been consistently higher than the national average and a housing market that faceplanted in the most painful way possible. And when times get rough, it's the most vulnerable members of the community that suffer the most. In 2009, 1.5 million children in California were uninsured--a startling increase of 36% since 2007, when 1.1 million were uninsured.
But many uninsured California families are eligible to apply for public health programs, such as Healthy Families, Medi-Cal for Families, and Access for Infants and Mothers programs.
Social Interest Solutions (SIS), a non-profit organization that leverages technology to help low-income families get access to public programs and services, launched Health-e-App public access in December 2010 to allow parents to fill out and submit a fully automated application for family health coverage from any computer that has Internet access, at any time. The organization announced Friday that in the two months since its launch, some 8,000 applications have been submitted directly by families.
Health-e-App has been used in California for years, but previously, the system was only for use by staff members of a clinic or community-based center. If a family wanted to apply for a public health program like Healthy Families, the parents had to go to one of those venues and have a staff-member enter their data into the system. But with the new public availability of Health-e-App, parents can--for the first time--apply for health programs from their own home computers.
SIS co-director Claudia Page explained to me that Health-e-App is part of the organization's larger One-e-App platform, which includes a broad range of different public programs and services.
"The One-e-App system is available in both assisted (at clinics, hospitals, schools) and unassisted (public access) versions and contains programs ranging from health (e.g. Medicaid, CHIP, etc) and social services (e.g. Food Stamps, cash assistance) to other supports such as Earned Income Tax Credit, energy subsidies, Women, Infants and Children programs, and more. In reality, once you ask an individual the questions needed to apply for Medicaid, you have an incredibly rich data set and can use that data (with the applicants’ permission) to see if they qualify for other programs and facilitate the enrollment process."
SIS' One-e-App platform has been deployed in Indiana, Arizona, and Maryland, and to date, the organization's technology has screened more than seven million people for nearly 11 million programs.
"Given the incredible initial uptake of the publicly accessible Health-e-App in California, there appears to be great promise in reaching uninsured families," Page added. "With numerous channels available to low-income families, the hope is that more families in need can access coverage."
A recent report released by the Commonwealth Club ranked California number 44 among all 50 states in its ability to provide health insurance to children. Children in the top ranking states--Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, Iowa, Rhode Island, Hawaii, and New Hampshire--are more likely than others to to have coverage and get recommended medical and dental checkups. Other bottom-ranking states included Nevada, Texas, Mississippi, Arizona, and Florida.
Image source: freedomhealthnet.com
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