SAN DIEGO: New Center Aids Poor in Accessing Care
A new San Diego center that opened last month has "helped 33 people who had difficulty navigating through the health care system," and is seeking to expand its services even further. Gregory Knoll, director and chief counsel for the San Diego Legal Aid Society, said confusing regulations, language barriers and "the occasional unsympathetic case manager keep many people from accessing the care they deserve." That's where the society's new Consumer Center for Health Education and Advocacy comes in, he said. The center has 15 full- and part-time staffers, many fluent in Spanish and Vietnamese, to target those eligible for public programs. Knoll said the center will provide representation in hearings to obtain health coverage for residents, but "our goal in every instance is to resolve matters between providers and patients in the fastest time and lowest level possible." While the center currently only serves those enrolled in, or eligible for, public assistance, Knoll said he hopes in the next few years to expand services to those enrolled in private plans. The center is funded in its first year by $1 million in grants, including $515,000 from the county, $100,000 from the Alliance Health Care Foundation and $300,000 for each of the next two years from the California Endowment. Supervisor Ron Roberts said, "We felt that this would be a good investment to help the whole system work better. I think everyone recognizes that we're dealing with people who aren't in a position to professionally communicate, or understand all the intricacies of dealing with health maintenance organizations." County Health Director Dr. Robert Ross said, "In this era of managed care, it's critically important [that] this center be established and strengthened. Imagine how daunting it must be for those individuals on Medi-Cal who face physical or mental health problems and are unaware of their entitlements. This program will help them advocate for themselves" (Clark, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/12). Supervisor Dianne Jacob added, "This is a great example of a true public/private partnership that not only provides consumers with a valuable educational resource but provides them with an advocate as well and I'm pleased to have played a role in its creation" (release, 5/10).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.