Program could provide health coverage to 500 Plumas residents
Five hundred Plumas County residents may be eligible for no-cost health insurance thanks to a new program announced last week.
The County Medical Services Program (CMSP) said Dec. 21 it would expand health care coverage to an additional 30,000 low-income adults living in 34 mostly rural California counties, including Plumas County, beginning Jan. 1, 2012.
The program, called Path2Health, will increase the number of low-income adults served statewide to nearly 90,000 by the end of 2013. CMSP currently serves more than 60,000 low-income adults each month. Plumas County averaged 191 CMSP cases a month in 2010-11, double the rate in 2008-09, according to the latest Plumas County Department of Social Services trends report.
“In Plumas County, we estimate that up to 500 individuals could qualify for this new program,” Plumas County Social Services Director Elliott Smart said. “However, our current estimate is that about 250 will actually apply.”
Smart said the gap was the result of some eligible people not using the program until they had an immediate health need, even though the program is good for a year at a time. Others “simply do not want to get involved with government benefits.”
Smart said he was hopeful his estimates would prove wrong. Health care is consistently in the news and people are more aware of the need, which has led to an increase in MediCal applications, he said.
Californians qualify for Path2Health if they are: a resident of one of the 34 counties the program serves, have an income of up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level (or about $10,890 annually for a single person), are between 19 and 64 years of age, do not qualify for MediCal and meet federal citizenship and documentation requirements.
Smart encourages Plumas residents who may be eligible to call his office at 283-6350.
Path2Health will provide coverage for medically necessary health care services, including primary care, emergency and hospital care, pharmacy services and limited dental and vision care. It will also cover a set number of mental health and substance abuse counseling visits.
Smart called the program “a step forward for the lowest income people.” He also noted that besides the benefits to the individual, the program strengthens the entire health care community. “It gives hospitals and providers a source of payment.” When there is no source of payment, those costs are ultimately passed on to the insured through higher costs for services and higher insurance premiums.
The coverage expansion is made possible by the state of California’s federal Medicaid “Bridge to Reform” waiver.
“The federal waiver makes it possible to bring the benefits of federal health reform early to many of California’s rural communities,” said Lee Kemper, executive director of the CMSP governing board.
“Path2Health’s 34 counties represent regions with some of the highest levels of poverty and
uninsurance in the state,” Kemper said. “Path2Health will provide many low-income adults in these counties with needed health coverage. Others will benefit in 2014 when the federal Medicaid program is expanded by federal reform.”
More information about Path2Health is available at mypath2health.org.