Celebrating Partnership: Understanding the Right to Accessing Health Care

Posted: July 15, 2015

m_katz_headshot_2By Mitchell H. Katz, MD, Director, Los Angeles County Department of Health Services

On June 25, the Supreme Court upheld subsidies for the 34 states that utilize the federal exchange for consumers to purchase coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). That’s a huge relief for 6.4 million Americans who were almost threatened with losing their health insurance.

But, as we all know, there are still millions of people across the nation that haven’t been able to benefit from the ACA because of their immigration status. President Obama stated in his press conference after the decision that, “Health care is not a privilege for a few but a right for all.” That progressive support and direction from our President validates what we’re doing here in California and Los Angeles, specifically. This ruling, coupled with the Governor’s decision to expand coverage to undocumented children, shows that there is increasing recognition of the value of health insurance as vital first step to access to care.

For the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS), our Community Partners –the community health clinics that work with us to provide primary care to the uninsured– are integral to getting county residents the services they need. The county has a long history of working with these clinics to provide healthcare to underserved individuals. The relationship is seen in DHS’ mission statement: “To ensure access to high-quality, patient-centered, cost-effective health care to Los Angeles County residents through direct services at DHS facilities and through collaboration with community and university partners.”

Creating a New Model for Health Care Access
The newest county program to provide primary care to those who remain uninsured after implementation of the ACA is called My Health LA (MHLA). The MHLA program began in October, 2014 and was born out of the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program in DHS and, following that, the Healthy Way LA program which served as a bridge to the Medi-Cal expansion under the ACA. Through each of these programs, we have strengthened our collaboration and partnership to fill the health care access gap for the uninsured and uninsurable.

With the MHLA program now firmly in place, the county and its Community Partners have seen more than 115,000 uninsured people enroll into the program to access a primary care provider and medical home, some for the first time. And although MHLA is not health insurance, men, women and children now have coordinated access to quality primary medical, specialty and hospital services through their medical home. MHLA is part of the changing model of health care in Los Angeles County and nationwide

Improving Access to Health Care with Partnerships

Our Community Partners continue the process of welcoming more individuals into this innovative health care program while we simultaneously work together to make sure that those enrolled into the program renew their eligibility. With a grant from UniHealth Foundation, we have started a special renewal committee with CCALAC and representative clinics to make sure that we make the renewal process as seamless as possible for MHLA patients and clinic enrollers. It is in all of our best interests to make sure we have a high return rate for participants into the program.

I am grateful to be part of this changing face of health care. It’s truly a dynamic time with lots of potential for more great ideas to be implemented, as many people tell me on a regular basis. And for those of you on the front lines in one of our Community Partner clinics, thank you for the hard work you do and your commitment to keep our community members healthy. Best wishes.

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