San Diego County Officials Defend Health Care Benefit Program
San Diego County officials are defending a county program for chronically ill, low-income patients after a group of residents again asked the courts to force the county to rewrite eligibility rules for the program, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
County attorney John Sansone said the latest incarnation of the County Medical Services program "provides appropriate benefits to those truly in need and expends taxpayers' money in a fair and reasonable manner." The new eligibility rules took effect in December 2007 (Clark, San Diego Union-Tribune, 3/5).
The new guidelines for the program stem from a ruling that directed the county to expand eligibility for the program.
The 4th District Court of Appeals in May 2007 rejected an earlier version of the county's no-cost health program because it said the income eligibility cap was inflexible and excluded residents who could not afford care.
The appellate court's ruling reversed the San Diego County Superior Court judge's approval of the county's original standards (California Healthline, 3/5).
Sansone said the current program complies with the appellate ruling because it "takes into account resources that individual CMS applicants can reasonably expect to contribute to help themselves."
Patients whose incomes exceed 165% of the federal poverty level are excluded from the program but can file for hardship exemptions. However, only one of the 41 county residents who filed for hardship exemptions was offered coverage.
Katie Murphy, attorney for the Western Center on Law and Poverty in Los Angeles, said numerous problems remain with the program (San Diego Union-Tribune, 3/5).