L.A. County Working To Expand No-Cost Medical Services Prior to Reform
Los Angeles County is launching one of the country's largest expansions of health care services in preparation for implementation of the federal health reform law, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The federal health reform law is expected to expand access to Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program, for millions of uninsured Californians in 2014. Los Angeles County officials are seeking to expand services as a way to compel newly insured individuals to choose county medical services.
Details of Program
At the core of the county's effort is the Healthy Way L.A. program, which is not an insurance plan but allows patients to obtain no-cost primary and specialty care, emergency treatment, mental health care, chronic disease management and medication. Treatment will not be given outside of the county.
The county also is working to focus more on primary care rather than acute care in an effort to cut costs and attract patients.
County officials hope the Healthy Way L.A. program will enroll as many as 550,000 patients, who will receive no-cost treatment at area clinics. Thus far, health workers have enrolled 24,000 individuals.
To be eligible for the program, residents must:
- Be between ages 19 and 64;
- Be permanent residents of the county for five years; and
- Earn less than 133% of the federal poverty level, or about $14,500 for an individual and $29,700 for a family of four.
The county will pay half the cost -- about $300 million -- of the program over the next two years. In 2014, when more individuals become eligible for Medi-Cal, the federal government will pay the entire cost.
Issues Affecting Program
Observers of the implementation of the Healthy Way L.A. program say they have identified problems, such as a lack of translated documents, delays in making appointments and an abundance of patient paperwork, according to Barbara Siegel, managing attorney at Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles.
Other obstacles include out-of-date technology and a lack of electronic health records.
Siegel said, "We have to get it right so that in 2014, the county continues to play that critical role in providing health care to our indigent population" (Gorman, Los Angeles Times, 10/10).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.