Fresno County Turns Down Federal Funds for Low-Income Program
On Tuesday, Fresno County Board of Supervisors decided in a 3-2 vote that the county cannot afford to launch the Low Income Health Program, a move that rejects federal matching funds for the program, the Fresno Bee reports.
The decision could affect the county's efforts to implement provisions of the federal health reform law, according to the Bee.
According to the advocacy group Health Access, Fresno County is the first county in the state toÂ decide not to establish the programÂ (Alexander, Fresno Bee, 9/20).
About the Low Income Health Program
LIHP is an optional federal program for California that would be established at the local level.
It is part of California's Bridge to Reform program that aims to expand health insurance coverage until certain federal health reform provisions take effect in 2014 (Kincheloe, Fresno Business Journal, 9/20).
Counties that set up the program are required to expand services at clinics and access to primary care. The program offers matching federal funds on all local spending.
Reasons for the Decision
When Fresno County health officials initially applied for the program, they believed the county could receive up to $56 million through 2013.
However, officials have not been able to reach a deal to accommodate the federal program. The county would have had to change its current policy for treating uninsured residents under a $20 million annual contractÂ (Fresno Bee, 9/20).
The county's Medically Indigent Services Program is managed by Community Medical Centers under a contract that does not end for another 15 years. CMC and county representatives concluded that MISP and LIHP could not be supported with the funding currently available, even withÂ the possibilityÂ of additionalÂ federal fundsÂ (Fresno Business Journal, 9/20).
In addition, under the CMC contract, the county pays for coverage ofÂ uninsured residents, including undocumented immigrants. Obtaining federal matching funds for LIHP would have prohibited coverage for undocumented residents.
Reaction to the Decision
Advocates said the decision was a missed opportunity to expand and improve health care services for thousands of uninsured residents.
Kathleen Grassi --Â assistant health director for Fresno County -- said the county will experience a greater degree of difficulty trying to sign up uninsured residents when the reform law expands coverage.
She said, "If we had the opportunity to move ahead with this program, we would be designing the infrastructure now" for expansion under the reform lawÂ (Fresno Bee, 9/20).
ÂThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.