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California Acts Early to Expand Health Programs for Poor

Aired 6/25/12 on KPBS News.

Expanding the health safety net for low-income people is a key part of the federal health overhaul law. California is moving ahead with the expansion despite uncertainty about the law’s constitutionality.

California counties have added over 400,000 low income people into their health programs since 2010. The expansion is part of the federal health care overhaul that is before the U.S. Supreme Court now.

California is one of a handful of states that is building up public health plans in advance of full implementation of the overhaul in 2014.

Farrah McDaid-Ting is from the California State Association of Counties. She said many of the people newly enrolled in the "Low Income Health Program" are childless adults.

"We would only really see them when they were severely injured or had a emergency room level crisis, which is very, very expensive," said McDaid-Ting. "So what the LIHP offers is the opportunity to get these people into a program where they have a primary care doctor and receive regular medical care."

The cost is of the program is shared fifty-fifty between federal and county government. Forty-seven California counties are participating to date.

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