Health Care for Low-Income Californians, Homeless Patients a Focus in Upcoming Bills

The three bills on which the legislature intends to vote take aim at health disparities among people covered by the state’s low-income health program known as Medi-Cal and the improper discharge of homeless patients from the hospital. Photo: iStock

The state legislature is expected to vote this month on three bills that seek to safeguard and improve the health of Californian residents, particularly those that are low-income or homeless.

Hearings on the three bills are slated for upcoming hearings in Assembly and Senate health committees after they passed through their respective side of the house in May. The bills take aim at health disparities among people covered by the state’s low-income health program known as Medi-Cal and the improper discharge of homeless patients from the hospital. One bill would make permanent a state taskforce focused on improving health across multiple aspects of California life, from education to environment.

Assembly Bill 2275, which goes before the Senate Committee on Health June 20, is designed to improve the quality of health-care services provided through Medi-Cal managed care plans. The goal is to provide an equal level of care to people covered by the plans regardless of race or ethnicity, and improve the overall quality of services by holding plans to higher measurement standards, explained Kimberly Chen, government affairs manager for the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN), a statewide health advocacy group that co-sponsored the bill.

A third of Californians—and more than half of all children in the state—are covered by Medi-Cal. Most services are coordinated through managed care plans.

The bill “is a real opportunity to improve the health of so many Californians and really (set) an expectation that no matter how you get your health care, what your income might be, that you deserve quality health care and the opportunity to live healthier lives,” Chen said.

Senate Bill 1152, meanwhile, tackles what advocates maintain has been a long-standing problem for the homeless. Hospitals frequently discharge homeless patients following treatment without ensuring they have a safe place to go, said Bob Erlenbusch, executive director of the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness.

Erlenbusch said he’s heard from shelters in the Sacramento area about homeless patients discharged to the streets in their hospital gowns, with tubes in their chest, or while still recovering from surgery.

“It’s terrible,” said Erlenbusch. “The person hasn’t recovered so they wind up back in the emergency room within a couple of days.”

If passed, the bill would set a clear protocol for discharging homeless patients, including making sure they have a place to go for recovery and providing them with appropriate clothing and medical equipment. Erlenbusch said the bill won’t completely solve the problem, because what’s needed are more recuperative care beds to send homeless patients to. But the additional layer of regulations should help put pressure on hospitals to do the right thing, he said.

The final bill, AB 2434, would make permanent the Health in All Policies Taskforce, established in 2010. The task force, staffed by public health experts and civil servants, brings different state agencies together to develop coordinated policies and programs for improving health.

Over the years, this effort has resulted in a program that brings nutritious, California-grown food into public schools; an effort to plant trees to provide shade at schools vulnerable to excess heat from climate change; and health-related guidelines for planning state transportation.

X Close

Subscribe to Our Mailing List