L.A. County Expands Access to Healthcare for Uninsured Residents

By City News Service

On a 4-1 vote Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors approved up to $61 million in annual funding for medical and dental care services for uninsured Angelenos.

The new program, My Health Los Angeles, targets low-income residents not covered under the federal Affordable Care Act and Medi-Cal. To qualify, patients must have an annual income at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level – $16,105 for an individual or $32,913 for a family of four, for example.

The program, set to open Oct. 1, is intended to reduce costs by moving away from a fee-for-service model to monthly grants to community clinics for the services they provide.

Enrolled patients will be assigned a primary care physician. Proponents said coordinating primary care rather than having patients rely on ad hoc emergency room services will improve patient health and ultimately reduce costs.

“Your action today will lead to a reduction in the practice of using hospital emergency rooms for basic healthcare, therefore draining public resources,” Father Arturo Corral told the board.

Supervisor Michael Antonovich cast the dissenting vote. He contended the program would benefit immigrants in the country illegally at the expense of citizens.

“This program will siphon more than $60 million each year in local tax revenues away from public safety, foster children and other vital services for legal immigrants and citizens,” Antonovich said. “It is yet another example of how county taxpayers continue to shoulder the burden for the shortcomings of the federal government, which has failed to secure the border or reimburse local governments for the full cost of illegal immigration.”

Applicants must be residents of Los Angeles County in order to qualify for My Healthy Los Angeles, but county workers do not ask about enrollees’ immigration status. Some immigrants with permanent legal residence may not qualify for Medi-Cal but could be eligible for the county program.

“We are embarking on a plan in Los Angeles County to be one of the first in the country to provide universal coverage to all of our citizens,” St. John’s Well Child and Family Center CEO Jim Mangia told the board.

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September 25, 2014  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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