Some 15,000 children in Alameda County lack health insurance even though they are eligible for Medi-Cal, the state's health care program for low-income individuals and families.

That is why the county launched a new billboard campaign featuring a grandfather, two parents and a daughter covered only by a sign reading "Cover your family."

Residents should begin noticing the ads on billboards, buses, transit shelters and convenience stores this week.

"Our message is that you wouldn't let your family go without clothes ¿-- why let them go without health coverage?" Social Services director Lori Cox said.

Without coverage, people delay routine preventive medical care, which can lead to more serious health concerns and higher costs for the county down the road, she said.

This public awareness effort, which cost $200,000, "is our attempt to ensure that we have exhausted all possible avenues to enroll as many children and families as possible and to continue to improve our success," Cox said.

The new campaign piggybacks on the county's Connecting Kids to Coverage effort launched in 2011 that helped enroll about 3,000 qualifying children by working with community-based organizations, clinics and schools.

At that time, more than half of the county's uninsured children were low-income, with 16 percent under the federal poverty level, according to census figures. Nearly half were Latino with another 29 percent Asian/Pacific Islander and 14 percent black. Nine percent were white. A third lived in Oakland, 20 percent in Hayward and 11 percent in Fremont.


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"We want our children to do well," Supervisor Wilma Chan said.

If they don't have health insurance, the odds of that happening are much lower, she said.

For information call 510-COVER-US (510-268-3787), visit www.benefitscalwin.org or download forms at www.dhcs.ca.gov.