Children from 10 state preschool classes in Goleta and Santa Barbara missed story time last week to receive vision, hearing, and dental exams-courtesy of the First 5 Commission of Santa Barbara County-at Harding and Isla Vista elementary schools. The health fairs, which screened 177 kids, are coordinated annually by Santa Barbara County Office of Education’s Health Linkages program. The children were all from low-income families-a qualification for participating in state preschool programs-and most had health coverage through Medi-Cal, Healthy Families, or Healthy Kids.
The screenings took place against a backdrop of uncertainty over the future of Healthy Families-also known as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Healthy Families-covering 9,000 county children whose families can’t afford health insurance but make too much to receive Medi-Cal-expired September 30. Congress and President Bush have since been fighting over the program’s future size and character. A temporary funding extension expired on November 13. Meanwhile, the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board, which runs Healthy Families, is preparing for the worst, and recently adopted procedures that will enable it to limit eligible children to waiting lists or, if needed, to drop children already enrolled.