One Woman and LA’s Free Health Care Program

Jan. 28, 2013 / By

New America Media, Video, Min Lee, text: Viji Sundaram, Posted: Jan 27, 2013

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – For years after she lost her job as a telephone operator in 1992, the only health care 57-year-old Nita Thompson received for the severe asthma she developed at the tail-end of her employment was through the kindness of friends and family members who shared their medications with her.

“It may not have been the correct medications, but they did the job,” Thompson recalled on a recent day as she sat in the living room of her 90-year-old father apartment here.

The periodic health fairs in her neighborhood helped her to monitor her blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It was after one of her asthma attacks in 2008 that Thompson saw a flyer at the Hubert Humphrey Comprehensive Health Center that advertised a Los Angeles County-run safety net pilot program for low-income people with chronic health conditions called Healthy Way LA that launched in 2007. She enrolled in it.

That program evolved in July 2011 into the current version of Healthy Way LA, a program designed to be a “bridge” to Medi-Cal (called Medicaid in the rest of the nation) for low-income uninsured people, who could not qualify for traditional Medi-Cal because of its stringent eligibility requirements.

The logic goes that Thompson and others enrolled in the low-income bridge program will eventually be enrolled in Medi-Cal, when that program expands in 2014 with the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Obama administration’s landmark 2010 federal health care reform law.

Healthy Way LA “mirrors for the most part the benefits of Medi-Cal, except that the number of providers in its network is smaller than in Medi-Cal,” said Amy Luftig Viste, director of Community Partner Programs of the county’s Department of Health Services. That is changing with the addition of more community health care clinics to the network, she said.

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