State extends law helping needy kids

San Mateo County families who earn too much to qualify for government health care assistance will be eligible to receive county medical help for the next half-decade, under a bill recently signed by the governor.

A 2003 law by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, has allowed 200 extra San Mateo County kids to receive health care through government assistance each year since. That law was set toexpire in January, however, until Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill 1304 last week, allowing the program to continue through 2014.

Prior to 2003, most Peninsula residents were denied state help because their salaries were higher than the cutoff of 75 percent of the state’s median income, even though the cost of living there balanced out their earnings, Simitian said. As a result, 15 percent of the county’s $18.8 million in annual health care assistance funds were returned to the state.

The new law does not allocate more funds to the county, but rather allows the region to use its money on families in need, even if they do not meet state qualifications for health care subsidies.

In addition to the 200 extra children from low-income backgrounds who will receive health care from the county in coming years, more families will receive additional hours of medical assistance. The program has allowed for an 8 percent increase in the number of kids who can receive care at one of the county’s 22 contracted facilities, Dillman said.

The program also increases the amount children can receive compared to average California families because the cost to provide care is higher on the Peninsula, said Laura Walker, CEO of the county’s Child Care Coordinating Council.

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

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