University of California medical centers and physicians are playing an important part in helping increase access to health care through the federal Affordable Care Act.
The law is expected to expand health insurance coverage to millions of Americans by extending Medicaid coverage and creating health exchanges that will offer affordable health insurance options. California's exchange, called Covered California, is aimed at those who don't have insurance through their employer or another government program.
Californians who purchase a health benefit plan through Covered California and are looking to access UC's five medical centers and 5,000 physicians for in-network health care can do so by selecting Anthem Blue Cross as their health care provider. UC Health has a systemwide agreement with Anthem to participate as a Tier 1 provider in the exchange that includes medical centers at UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC San Diego and UC San Francisco.
Other insurers on the Covered California exchange also offer access to UC medical centers and physicians, such as Western Health Advantage with UC Davis and Health Net with UCLA and UC San Diego. Through Covered California, individuals may be eligible to receive financial assistance to make health care more affordable. However, if an enrollee already has access to affordable health insurance through another source, such as an employer or government program, the enrollee may not qualify for financial assistance through Covered California. So far, more than 400,000 people have enrolled in health insurance plans through Covered California.
As a public trust, UC has a responsibility to help Covered California be successful and to provide Californians access to affordable health care, said Dr. John Stobo, UC senior vice president for health sciences and services.
At a November summit attended by UC regents, chancellors, medical center CEOs and medical school deans, Stobo explained that UC is participating in Covered California because of its public trust role, even though its medical centers will receive lower reimbursements.
UC Health is a vital part of California's safety net, providing half of the transplants and one quarter of extensive burn care in the state, as well as providing $444 million in charity care in the past year.
"We understand that we have a responsibility to address issues that affect society," Stobo said.
As part of those efforts, UC not only is a participant in Covered California but also is doing outreach to inform the public about the exchange and health care reform.
For example, UC Davis has promoted its Covered California involvement at community venues, special events and its own facilities, staffing and passing out fliers at more than 70 events such as farmers markets and community health and safety fairs.
UC San Diego is hosting educational events for the public to learn about the Affordable Care Act and has distributed more than 3,000 fliers about its participation to patient areas, libraries, community centers and at events including the Chargers Blood Drive.
UC San Francisco hosted a town hall about Covered California that included state elected officials and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic leader.
UC Irvine hosted its annual Super Saturday Health Fair, where participants could get health insurance and Affordable Care Act questions answered by Covered California as well as receive a free flu shot, a diabetes screening and a blood pressure checkup.
As part of a team of more than 200 health professionals, UCLA staffed the Care Harbor free health care clinic with trained navigators who helped patients sign up for health coverage.
Additional outreach and education is being done through grants awarded by Covered California, with UC receiving two of these grants, each for $1 million. One is for the UC Berkeley School of Public Health and its Health Initiative of the Americas, which works with 13 subcontractors to reach out to Latinos in both rural and urban areas, particularly part-time, seasonal and contract employees as well as post-secondary students and young invincibles. The other is for the UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities, which is partnering with El Concilio, the Council for the Spanish Speaking, to educate nearly 133,000 primarily Spanish-speaking Central Valley residents about Covered California.
The UC Student Health Insurance Plan launched a health care reform education campaign to inform students that they have new choices in their insurance coverage and to promote understanding of the value of UC-sponsored student health plans.
Californians began enrolling in health plans through Covered California on Oct. 1 and can continue to enroll through March 31, 2014.