Fresno County Latest Battleground for Health Safety Net Programs
A lawsuit is challenging eligibility rules for Fresno County's safety net program for medically indigent residents, and health care advocates see the case as another step in their push to expand eligibility for the programs in counties with strict limits, the Los Angeles Daily Journal reports.
State law requires California counties to operate safety net programs for residents with illnesses who are ineligible for Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program.Â The safety net programs cover physician appointments, some medications and other medical services.
Eligibility guidelines are determined on a county-by-county basis.
Fresno County Case
A Fresno County resident with severe epilepsy is contesting the county's income eligibility guidelines.Â He has a monthly income of $788 from state disability insurance payments.
Under Fresno County's Medically Indigent Services Program, residents whose incomes are less than $509 per month are eligible for services at no-cost at county hospitals.Â Residents whose monthly incomes are between $509 and $764 are eligible for partial payment for medical services.
The program treats about 15,000 patients with a budget of just below $20 million, according to the county's Department of Public Health.
Last year, the department denied about 3,000 applications, according to a department spokesperson.
Fresno County has not adjusted the income cap since 1996.
Precedent in San Diego County
A similar case in San Diego County forced the county to consider residents' ability to pay as criteria for the program and increase its income eligibility guidelines.ÂThe income levels that were overturned in San Diego County were higher than Fresno County's income eligibility guidelines (George, Los Angeles Daily Journal, 12/3). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.