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Health Care Research finds information gaps on low-income health programs

Work Gets Under Way On $42M Expansion

Project at Sharp Hospital

A recent study from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation on how low-income California parents view two government-funded health care programs for children may give rise for concern.

According to the study, many poor families are unaware of the Healthy Families program.

The program seeks to subsidize health care for children whose parents earn slightly too much to qualify for Medi-Cal, the statewide health program for the poor.

Many parents don’t know the difference between the two programs or are unsure in which program their children are enrolled, the California Healthcare Foundation reported Feb. 12 in a newsletter.

Researchers of the study held eight focus groups throughout the state asking parents whose children were either uninsured or enrolled in Medi-Cal or Healthy Families how they viewed the two programs.

One session focused on how parents who didn’t have previous information on the programs viewed Medi-Cal and Healthy Families; another one asked parents who had information on the programs to evaluate them, the Healthcare Association reported Feb. 12.

In a discussion on Medi-Cal, all participating parents said they were aware of the program and most had a “positive impression.”

However, the parents in the first round also expressed concerns. These included having “difficulties in the enrollment process,” anxiety that their children would be “treated badly by health care providers and their staff,” because they are on Medi-Cal.

Parents also cited problems in finding doctors who accepted Medi-Cal and criticized the program for not providing sufficient dental coverage.

Parents later were pleased to discover the application process had been made easier and that Medi-Cal will cover past medical costs.

Fewer parents knew of the Healthy Families program and many didn’t know how this program differed from Medi-Cal, the survey found.

After learning more about the program, parents had a “favorable impression,” but several said Healthy Families was too new and they needed to learn more about it.

Others were surprised to learn that Healthy Families didn’t cover parents, given the association with “Families,” the association reported.

According to the California Healthcare Foundation, out of nearly 2 million uninsured children in California, 838,000 children are estimated to be eligible for Medi-Cal and 636,000 children for Healthy Families.

A new Internet-based pilot program, dubbed “Health-e-App,” aims to facilitate and speed up enrollment of eligible children into both programs.

Health-e-App has been tested at several sites in San Diego since Jan. 9.

First results of the study’s success will be made public next month, the Foundation said.

– – –

New Sharp Facility: Sharp Memorial Hospital broke ground for a $42 million ambulatory care and community resource center in Kearny Mesa.

The 122,500-square-foot building, located between Sharp Memorial Hospital and Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women on Health Center Drive, will house outpatient services and 12 operating rooms.

The center will also offer specialized services, such as cancer therapy, a breast health center and radiology services.

A health screening center provides health resources, including Internet search capabilities, video viewing, books and pamphlets with medical information to patients and their families.

The first phase of the campus-wide modernization project is anticipated to be finished by June 2002.

The entire project will be completed in 2007, said Daniel L. Gross, CEO of Sharp Memorial.

Send health care news to mwebb@sdbj.com.


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