Insuring L.A.’s Uninsured Children
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Holmes Report

Insuring L.A.’s Uninsured Children

The health of many children of Los Angeles County is in jeopardy. According to the Center for Health Policy Research at the University of California at Los Angeles, there are about 349,000 uninsured children in Los Angeles County.

Paul Holmes

The health of many children of Los Angeles County is in jeopardy. According to the Center for Health Policy Research at the University of California at Los Angeles, there are about 349,000 uninsured children in Los Angeles County. These children live their lives without a healthcare safety net – a safety net that in almost any other country in the world is considered a fundamental right.

While state funded programs have made progress in bringing health care to needy children and students in L.A. County, there remains a significant number of children in need. The Children’s Health Initiative of Greater Los Angeles (CHI) was designed to fill in the gap where other state programs leave off and help solve the problem of uninsured children in Los Angeles County.

Based on secondary research conducted in governmental and public service publications, Edelman found CHI faced the following obstacles: While Los Angeles County is arguably the most diverse County in the nation, anti-immigrant sentiments are prevalent and CHI may be perceived as primarily benefiting Latino immigrants, those who have health care often do not perceive that their self-interest is affected by a lack of coverage for others.

If anything, they may perceive that those who do not currently have health care coverage may not deserve it, California has a multi-billion dollar budget deficit and health care for the uninsured is often seen as a “budget buster,” recruiting and retaining children into the program will be a challenge.

The program is partially designed to assist illegal immigrants who have proven wary of inquiring or enrolling in such programs at government facilities since they fear deportation, recruiting and retaining members will require customizable, accessible and understandable communications for the various ethnic groups that can benefit from this program.

Edelman collected quantitative research in the form of a survey to 600 residents of Los Angeles County with some history of voting and qualitative research in the form of focus groups in Torrance and Northridge – cities with different voting tendencies. Highlights from the research findings include that: 88 percent of the County’s voters approve of the concept underlying the CHI, providing a quantitative measure of support to prove to lawmakers that there is overwhelming support for our program. 64 percent of voters consider the chief benefits and most appealing parts of the program to be: it will ensure that no child in the County has to go without health care, and it will keep kids healthy and save lives, while sentiments in the focus groups agreed with the findings in the survey. “We’re worried about kids,” said a Northridge women, “rather than legal or illegal. Children don’t choose to be here, parents do. Unfortunately, we have a responsibility.“

Based on the research and obstacles facing the program – opposing dichotomies of extreme social need and economic crisis – the CHI requested a two phased program. The first phase objectives were to: Publicly launch the CHI, develop the program’s key messages, and demonstrate the benefits of the program, gain buy-in from city and county elected officials and local influencers. After the launch, the second phase objectives were to: enroll 150,000 children over three years, forge community alliances and conduct legislative advocacy in L.A. County and its 88 cities, increase fundraising levels and reinforce CHI’s benefits.

To achieve these objectives, Edelman developed the following strategies based on our research:
expand the coalition to clearly demonstrate that its goals are supported by businesses, teachers, fiscally conservative elements, non-Latino whites and minorities, and those who already have healthcare, assemble tested messages and a brand that communicates how and why this expanded coalition supports expanded health care coverage, create and implement activities, including a launch, that generate steady, repeated communications through the media and other channels including the internet, enrollment fairs and newsletters, secure support from elected officials, host enrollment fairs and local schools, churches and health centers and support fundraising efforts.

Partnerships were developed with enlisted third party support from the L.A. Chamber of
Commerce and the L.A. Unified School District. The PR team also expanded the coalition to include 77 groups that support the CHI and 43 groups that actively participate in the coalition’s efforts.

Most importantly, Edelman developed enrollment materials – a brochure, flier, and paycheck insert - for potential program participants and transcreated them into Mandarin and Spanish. Edelman developed b-roll footage of children receiving treatment to tell a visually compelling story for interested media and engaged in a regular dialogue with print, broadcast, and ethnic media to elevate the issue and the impact of the uninsured in Los Angeles County. Finally, Edelman developed the content for CHI’s website and produced a quarterly newsletter – the CHI Quarterly Update.

CHI’s impact on the community is real and meaningful; more than 40,000 children were insured in a 7 month period, exceeding our goal by 37 percent. Maria Batana struggled to pay the medical bills for her sick 4 year old that suffered from seizures. She tells the story of when “there were days when we had nothing to eat because we used the little money that we had to pay for the doctor’s visits to find out what was wrong with my baby.” Her son is now insured because of CHI’s program.

Los Angeles County Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Don Knabe support the program and spoke at CHI’s launch. As a result of our media outreach, Univision, the largest Spanish broadcast station in the L.A. market, held a televised enrollment segment that generated more than 147,000 viewer calls. The calls not only helped to increase the station’s ratings to its highest level since December 2003, but also helped the coalition in its enrollment effort and policy campaigns.

Key media coverage includes an editorial print exclusive with the Los Angeles Times (front page of the California section), and stories in Hoy, La Opinion, the Korea Times, and the Chinese Daily News. Broadcast coverage includes KTLA-TV, KNBC-TV, KCBS-TV, KCAL-TV, Telemundo, KWHY-TV, KRCA-TV, KCET and NPR’s “Which Way L.A.” with Warren Olney.

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