Measured Excitement for LIHP Number 51

Yesterday, Sacramento County celebrated becoming the 51st County in California to implement the Low Income Health Program (LIHP).  LIHP is the “Bridge to Health Reform” Program that allows Counties to begin the expansion of Medi-Cal prior to 2014, when the federal government will expand the program according to the Affordable Care Act.  Ten counties began implementing LIHP last July, and 40 others have joined in since then.  These 50 counties combined have already enrolled over 550,000 low income Californians into coverage.  Sacramento officially kicked off the program yesterday, which Health Access attended in support, and eligibility screening has begun; services will start November 1.

Congresswoman Doris Matsui, to whom many LIHP partners attributed the progress in implementation of the program, was on hand to celebrate.

Matsui heralded LIHP as an important part of implementing the Affordable Care Act, and an opportunity to both strengthen the safety net and to foster new partnerships in the community in order to improve quality and access to health care.

Also in attendance were Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli, and representatives from Molina Healthcare, who will both administer the program and participate as one of the network providers.  Representatives from other participating clinics, including Sacramento Community Clinic, who hosted the event, and hospital partners Sutter Sacramento, Dignity Health, and Kaiser Permanente (who has not officially partnered with the County but is in negotiations) were also present.  The providers spoke about providing the right care at the right time in the right place in order to improve the health of the community.

However, with this silver lining comes a cloud. In addition to starting their program very late, the county’s LIHP eligibility criteria are restrictive.  In Sacramento, only individuals up to 67% of the Federal Poverty Level will be eligible for the program, that means individuals with annual incomes less than $7500.  Additionally, in order to apply for the program, you must pick up an application in person at the Primary Care Clinic or the Pharmacy located at 4600 Broadway (first floor).  Completed applications should be turned in at the same address, but on the second floor.  Application pick up and drop off must be between 8am and 5pm, Monday through Friday.

Many counties allow partnering community clinics, which will serve as medical homes for LIHP enrollees, to distribute, process, or collect applications.  We hope that Sacramento county will consider expanding accessibility in this manner. Additionally, we hope that Sacramento will follow the example of Santa Clara County, who recently overcame initial budgetary concerns (the same concerns Sacramento cites), increased their eligibility from 75% FPL to 133% FPL.

All of the speakers at this morning’s press conference expressed excitement about this opportunity to draw down federal dollars and to expand and improve the health care safety net.  We too are excited about this first step, but hope that as they move forward, Sacramento County and its LIHP partners will expand and improve their LIHP to truly meet the needs of the community.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.