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Low-Cost Health Services

Dear Debi,
I have a 5-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son. Our family income isn’t enough to afford medical insurance. Besides, I only have a part- time job because I’m still in school. What can I do to get medical services for my kids, without paying high sums of money?
Nohemi Martinez
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Every child needs regular medical examinations & immunizations
  • Maintain your child’s health to prevent illnesses
  • Your kid’s health is important to the community
  • Contact your city or county health department
Expert Advice
Dr. Michael Bryant
Dr. Michael Bryant
Pediatrician, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
Medi-Cal offers comprehensive medical care to children in low income families. This care may be primary – which usually focuses on prevention and health maintenance – or may be for care of an acute illness. The Healthy Families program offers low-cost health care for working families whose incomes and financial responsibilities make it difficult for them to afford the premiums of heath care.

Because the cost of health care has risen tremendously, many employers are no longer able to offer health benefits to their employees or the benefits have been significantly reduced with an increasing amount of the cost being shifted to the employee. Programs like these allow our most precious human resource – our children – to remain healthy. The Women Infants and Children (WIC) program is excellent and provides formula for children. There are other programs available as well.

The Child Health and Disability Prevention (CHDP) program provides periodic visits for children and focuses on immunizing children as well as routine screening exams to prevent illness and identify medical problems before they escalate to something more serious. Eligibility for the program is based upon income. The California Children’s Services (CCS) program provides care for catastrophic illness and is available to children who were not necessarily born in California, but whose parents intend to remain here. This program provides comprehensive care for such illnesses as cancer, heart disease and others.

There are also community health clinics throughout the state which offer free care to those who qualify or provide services on a sliding fee scale. Many of these are part of a network known as Federally Qualified Health Care Centers (FQHCS) which are subsidized by the federal government. FQHCs are located throughout the country. Most other states have programs similar to the Medi-Cal program here in California which provide health care to children in low income families. Eligibility requirements for these programs vary. Many are based upon income. Others are based on whether the care is primary which really focuses on health maintenance verses acute care which focuses on a specific illness.

There are also public health directories that can provide information about what services are available in your area, or you can call the public health office in your community. Alternatively, you can go to your local community health center. Most have health education workers, social workers and case managers which can assist you with applying to the appropriate programs.

For those parents concerned about the impact of their legal status on their child’s health care, remember it is against the law to withhold care from a child who needs it because of the parents’ immigration status. If the parent doesn’t speak English, keep in mind that most clinics have bilingual (English and Spanish) staff that can help with communication. At Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, we have an employed staff of interpreters to aid with communication. The phone companies also offer interpreter services as well.

Keep in mind that immunizations and routine check-ups are crucial to keeping a child healthy. Immunizations protect children against known childhood illnesses that are quite serious and can result in lost school days and even chronic illness. Check-ups are important because these routine exams allow your doctor to make sure your child is growing and developing appropriately. They allow your physician to identify potential health issues and intervene early.

A child’s health has a great impact on the overall community. Our children are our future. From birth they are learning from their parents, extended family members, teachers, as well as the environment. If their health is poor then they cannot engage in this learning process. Since they represent our future, their health is a necessary requisite to this learning and ultimately the future of each of our communities.
Child Care provider Comments
Cindy Woodmansee
Cindy Woodmansee
Mother of eight
We live in California, so I recommend that Nohemi should find out if she qualifies for a program called Medi-Cal. If she doesn’t qualify for Medi-Cal, I’d tell her to try for a program called Healthy Families. These are both California-based programs. There’s also health clinics that offer low-cost or free services to people who don’t have medical insurance or who don’t have a large income to pay a pediatrician. I’ve also used the Women Infants and Children Program. They provide nutritional advice and child growth monitoring.
Carol Woods
Carol Woods
Grandmother of eleven
There’s a program in California called Healthy Families which allows families to purchase low-cost health insurance. Healthy Families is a program for those families whose combined income is too high to qualify for Medi-Cal. A family’s eligibility and cost of insurance is also based on their income and family size. I’ve taken my grandchildren and my son, to get their shots, and it was a very positive experience for all of us. My son even got chest X-rays and all of his immunizations were brought up-to-date. They are very easy to deal with and are very professional. It’s just like going to your private doctor – in some cases, even better.
Sonnia Corzo
Sonnia Corzo
Child care provider for 6 years, mother of four
The first thing I would do is refer Nohemi to her local Resource & Referral Agency. An R&R can refer you to low-cost public health clinics where you can get check-ups and shots. I’d also refer her to Medi-Cal – a program by the government that helps people get no-cost health insurance for low-income families. You have to apply and see if you qualify based on your income level and family size. If you do, then you’re entitled to health and dental services, as well as prescriptions.

Check-Ups and Immunizations Featured Activity:
Check-Ups and Immunizations
Community Health Care Featured Video:
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Topic: Health & Safety
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