California, and L.A., offer options to help those in need of health care

Filed Under: Costs, Patients, Providers

Hollywood sign

You learn a lot about state-by-state health care when collecting prices as we do. Socioeconomics, demographics, geography – all of these things can make a huge difference in cash-pay prices for health care procedures and commodities.

One thing we learned while collecting prices in the greater Los Angeles area is that there are a surprising (and pleasing) number of financial aid options – most notably Healthy Way LA and Family PACT, and Healthy San Francisco.

Initiated in 2007, Healthy Way LA is a Los Angeles County Health Services program that allows uninsured Los Angeles County residents (must be a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident for at least five years and between ages 19 and 64) in financial need (monthly income of $1,239 or less for a family of one) to choose a permanent medical “home” from one of more than 100 clinics. This clinic will cover nearly all your medical needs in a personal, family-practice-like tradition.

And the best part? Healthy Way LA is completely free. The service covers all basic and preventive care (whether out-patient or in-patient), access to specialists and urgent care, in-house pharmacies for

 

prescriptions and mental health services. It also offers a 24/7 nurse advice line and translation services.

But Healthy Way LA doesn’t cover everything. What you don’t get is dental coverage or eye care. Also, because of exceptionally high demand for this service, enrollment capacity is limited to a “first come, first served” basis, and those who are eligible for Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) or Healthy Families do not qualify.

Also, Healthy Way LA will not cover you if you are pregnant.

So what if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant? Well then there’s Family PACT (Planning, Access, Care, Treatment).

Family PACT is a California state program that provides “no-cost family planning services to low-income men and women, including teens.” Low income means those below the 200 percent federal poverty level. And family planning services means the following:

  • Preventing unplanned pregnancies
  • Reproductive health education, counseling and treatment
  • Information about birth control methods

According to the Family PACT website, the program has a network of 2,400 public and private providers. We found several women’s health clinics in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas that worked with Family PACT and, given that a well-woman exam can cost up to $500 for those without insurance (check out our price lists), we think Family PACT is a pretty sweet initiative. And remember – it’s for men too.

A unique benefit of Family PACT is that you are eligible even if you have insurance but it doesn’t cover birth control or family planning. Or if you have insurance but haven’t met your deductible yet.

So how long has this program been around? Since 2010, when California’s Office of Family Planning began it,  to “make available to citizens of the State who are of childbearing age comprehensive medical knowledge, assistance, and services relating to the planning of families.” Before 2010, Family PACT existed as a demonstration program created to show the cost effectiveness of expanded access to family planning.

Some clinics will tell you about their financial aid packages. Others won’t, which is why we’re telling you now, and reminding you to always ask.

In San Francisco, Healthy San Francisco provides “a reinvention of the San Francisco health care safety net, that will enable and encourage residents to access primary and preventive care.” It’s operated by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, and has as its goal “to make health care services accessible and affordable to uninsured San Francisco residents.” It has recently expanded income eligibility. To learn more, go to the HSF Web site.