Uninsured Have Growing Number of Options
SAN BERNARDINO, CA – A November 2010 study by the Insure The Uninsured Project shows that 25.1 percent of San Bernardino County residents under age 65 – more than one in four – are without insurance. In Riverside County, it’s even worse, as 28 percent of people under age 65 there are without insurance.
This is almost 1 million people, and a good many of them are members of the Inland Empire’s middle class. Another study, released by the California Healthcare Foundation in December 2010 shows more stunning statistics about the state’s uninsured population.
- Working people in California are more likely to be uninsured than in the United States as a whole, even if they are self-employed or work for a government entity.
- More than half of California’s uninsured children are in families where at least one adult has a full-time, year-round job.
- One in three of California’s uninsured have family incomes of more than $50,000 a year.
That means that while many of the 7.2 million uninsured California residents earn an otherwise comfortable living, the rising cost of insurance has forced them to view health care as an unaffordable luxury.
Help for uninsured people making up to $88,200 for a family of four is coming in 2014. The national exchange is a key piece of the federal Affordable Health Care Act of 2010.
“In 2014, people will be able to purchase insurance from a national exchange,” said Dr. Albert Arteaga, founder and CEO of LaSalle Medical Associates. “This exchange will be similar to California’s Healthy Families program, but it will also be available to adults, and to anyone in families making up to four times as much as the poverty level.”
In San Bernardino and Riverside counties, the poverty level is $22,050 per year for a family of four. Larger families will qualify for the exchange even if they make more than $88,200, while individuals and smaller families qualify at lower incomes.
The provisions of this act don’t fully kick in until 2014, but government entities at the federal, state and local levels are already working with health care providers to make the transition to full implementation of this act.
Dr. Arteaga expects there will be some changes to the Affordable Health Care Act of 2010 before it is fully implemented, but is looking forward to the reforms.
“No matter how it is modified, the Affordable Care Act is still a step forward,” he said. “We eventually need to move to everyone having access to health care, whenever they need it.”
The consequences of people being forced to live without health insurance can be tragic.
“Saying someone can live without health insurance is like saying they can live without God in their life,” said Dr. Arteaga. “It may work, until there is a crisis.”
Many health care providers, including LaSalle Medical Associates, help people meet their health care needs by making office visits as affordable as possible.
Dr. Arteaga urges those who must pay cash to do so for annual immunizations and health screenings.
“Prevention is not popular, and I can understand why it may seem difficult to pay money to see a doctor when nothing is wrong,” he said. “But in the long run, it often is much more economical than waiting until something is seriously wrong.”
Often, there are already affordable options to being completely without health insurance. This is especially true for uninsured children.
Perhaps the most startling statistic from the California Healthcare Foundation is: As many as six in 10 of uninsured children are eligible for California’s two largest public insurance programs, Medi-Cal and Healthy Families.
Medi-Cal is for low-income families with children, all children in foster care, and low-income adults who are seniors, disabled, pregnant or coping with certain chronic diseases.
Qualification is based on family size, and ages of the children. County departments of social services determine eligibility.
Both San Bernardino and Riverside counties have multiple branches of their department of public social services. One can find the branch nearest them by calling (951) 955-6400 in Riverside County or (909) 388-0245 in San Bernardino County.
According to Healthy Families’ website. www.healthyfamilies.ca.gov, a family of four (two adults and two children, or one adult and three children) would usually qualify for Medi-Cal if making less than $44,100 yearly. Larger families could make more, and smaller families qualify on a lower income.
Healthy Families partially subsidizes health care for children under 19. This costs their families between $4 and $24 per month per child, up to a maximum of $72 per month per family. These families must also pay co-pays, usually about $5 to $15 per doctor visit, up to $250 per family each year.
Healthy Families is for families whose household income is too much for Medi-Cal but below another state standard, according to www.healthyfamilies.ca.gov. A family of four would qualify if making up to $55,128, with larger families eligible even if they earn more and smaller families qualifying on a lower income.
Families can enroll in Healthy Families with help from their doctor’s office. They have a choice of plans, which in the Inland Empire includes Inland Empire Health Plan, Molina Health Care, Anthem Blue Cross, Health Net and Kaiser Permanente.
LaSalle Medical Associates in California, with offices in San Bernardino, Fontana and Hesperia, has enrolled more families than most medical practices anywhere in California.
The LaSalle medical clinics are at 17577 Arrow Blvd. in Fontana, (909) 823-4454; 1505 West 17th St, (909) 887-6494, and 565 N. Mt. Vernon Ave., (909) 884-9091 in San Bernardino, and 16455 Main St. in Hesperia, (760) 947-2161.
For additional information about LaSalle Medical Associates, call (909) 890-0407.