San Diego County Expands Eligibility for Health Care Benefit
On Saturday, new income eligibility requirements took effect for a San Diego County health care benefit that covers the cost of medical care for uninsured patients, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
The new guidelines for the County Medical Services program expand eligibility to residents whose incomes do not exceed 165% of the federal poverty level. Residents who earn more than the new amounts can apply for hardship exemptions.
The program also will begin requiring copayments for patients whose incomes fall between 135% and 165% of the poverty level.
The revised eligibility requirements replace an interim policy ordered Oct. 1 by a Superior Court judge, who ruled that the county must cover medical costs for residents whose incomes do not exceed 250% of the poverty level. The ruling also prohibited the county from assessing copays.
County officials said they enrolled 268 residents after the judge's ruling. Those patients can continue to receive benefits through Jan. 31, 2008.
Meanwhile, lawyers from the Western Center on Law and Poverty argued that the new eligibility benchmarks fail to meet a state law requiring counties to cover medical costs for indigent residents with no insurance. Attorneys also criticized the copays and said the application process was confusing.
County officials contend that the cost of the expansion will force them to reduce, postpone or cancel other services (Clark, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/1).