California’s LIHP a Big Success

The Low Income Health Program, launched 20 months ago, already has more than 400,000 Californians signed up. Health care experts gathered in Sacramento yesterday to discuss one of the successes in California’s health reform effort.

“We hear about a lot of issues people have, but the issue that rises to the top is the LIHP,” said Agnes Lee, health policy advisor to the Assembly speaker’s office.

“Among the doom and gloom of the state budget, there is a bright spot out there. LIHP is one of those rare examples of an innovative, forward-thinking program … and this is something the nation is definitely looking at, as something significant,” Lee said at yesterday’s conference, “Low Income Health Program: Evolution,” sponsored by the Blue Shield of California Foundation.

Only five states have formed a “Bridge to Reform” program like LIHP and none of them on the scale of California’s effort, according to Diana Dooley, secretary of California’s Health and Human Services Agency.

“It’s much more fashionable these days to point out what’s wrong with government,” Dooley said, “but we are government, all of us. We are doing the people’s business and the people need us to do it well and wisely and efficiently.”

Jane Ogle, deputy director of the Department of Health Care Services, said the program will be operational in 50 of California’s 58 counties by December, 2013.

“San Joaquin and Placer counties started up just this month,” Ogle said, “and we’re expecting two more counties next month.”

Richard Thomason, one of the event organizers and a program officer for the Blue Shield of California Foundation, said the rest of the nation is taking note of the state’s LIHPs.

“It’s exciting to be talking about the evolution of LIHP, rather than the creation of it,” Thomason said. “Right now, California has the largest Medicaid expansion in the country. We’ve built the biggest bridge to reform anyone’s got.”

With a state this large, Lee said, LIHP has been an essential lead-in to federal reform starting January 2014.

“I can’t imagine going into 2014, how we would possibly do that by Jan. 1,” Lee said, “if we didn’t have this work going on beforehand.”

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