California Health Report: Effects of Health Care Changes on Medi-Cal

Community clinics like Alliance Medical Center in Healdsburg are on the frontlines of the massive reorganization of health care and coverage.

Community clinics like Alliance Medical Center in Healdsburg are on the frontlines of the massive reorganization of health care and coverage.

By Leilani Clark

Late last year, a self-employed Santa Rosa mother found herself navigating the Covered California website in search of affordable health coverage.

After filling in the required information — a frustratingly slow process — she discovered that she and her partner qualified for Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program for low-income residents. The Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, allows states to expand Medicaid.

The news turned out to be a blessing and a curse.

“The Covered California site just sort of dropped me off,” said the 39-year-old mother of two who requested that her name be withheld because of the medical details she shared in this story. “They sent my paperwork to the state and then seemed to be expecting that the state would call me. I know from experience that that’s just not going to happen, or it’ll be months.”

About 9,000 Medi-Cal applications from newly eligible Sonoma County residents have not been processed yet, due to the deluge of applications under Obamacare, said Joy Thomas, communications and outreach manager for the Sonoma County Human Services Department.

It’s unclear how long the newly eligible will have to wait for their applications to be processed in the county. The county’s goal is to enroll 75 percent of its 18,000 previously uninsured residents by the end of 2014. An additional 18,000 people who once had private insurance are also now eligible for Medi-Cal in Sonoma County.

According to the California Department of Health Services, Medi-Cal provides services to more than 8 million residents statewide. Under the Obamacare expansion, roughly 1.4 million more state residents have become eligible.

Though the state claims that Medi-Cal is not only easier to qualify for but also comes with an improved, streamlined application process, the Santa Rosa mother said she’s had a different experience. After waiting for a few weeks to hear back about her application, she called the state to find out what was going on. She was told that her family’s information was in the system, but no one knew how long it was going to be before coverage was sorted out, she said.

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  • LAAAC is managed by St. Barnabas Senior Services; Funded, in part, by Archstone Foundation.
  • St. Barnabas Senior Services

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