SAN FERNANDO VALLEY: Vida Provides Low-Cost Care To Uninsured
Sunday's Los Angeles Times profiled Vida, "a pioneering health care program specifically for low-income families in the northeast Valley, where most of the area's working poor reside." Vida, Spanish for "life," teams up with a network of 26 public and private neighborhood clinics, providing medical care to families who earn too much to qualify for Medi-Cal, but not enough to afford health benefits (a family of four can earn no more than $32,900 to qualify). For a single person the cost is $10 a month and for a family of up to 10 it is $25. "It's not a traditional, licensed health plan. It's a grass-roots model where people get a card and will receive health services," said Beth Osthimer, an attorney with San Fernando Valley Neighborhood Legal Services who helped launch the program. The nonprofit Valley Organized in Community Efforts (VOICE) founded the program, while a three-year, $500,000 grant from the nonprofit California Endowment provided funding for the project. But the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors next month "will consider providing an as-yet undetermined amount of money for Vida as it considers an $8-million proposal to expand ambulatory care and relieve the pressure on county emergency rooms."
Barriers To Access
The Times reports that about 130 uninsured residents have applied to join Vida, and later this year an additional 300 families will be selected for membership. In organizing the program, patient advocates found that many residents lacked health coverage because of the "daunting" red tape that accompanies many programs' application forms and because of the stigma associated with some public assistance programs. "We discovered that many people, even if eligible for Medi-Cal or public health care, were reluctant to seek care because of the way they were mistreated or discriminated (against) by intake workers," Osthimer said. However, VOICE official Mike Clemens said Vida is "not trying to steer people from other programs." He said, "If we find some families can get a better deal through Medi-Cal or Healthy Families, we'll help them transfer" (Ramirez, 11/8). Click here for previous coverage of other programs providing health care to the working poor.