Will Fresno Turn Down Over $50 Million in Federal Funds for Health Care?

Fresno County has a particularly high rate of uninsurance and unemployment. That’s why it’s even more stunning that on Tuesday, the County Board of Supervisors might turn down millions of dollars in federal funds to help their situation. And why it’s urgent that Fresno citizens call their Supervisors to urge them to put off the vote.

Fresno’s Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on whether they want to be the first county in the state to withdraw from the Low Income Health Program, a result of the state’s Medicaid waiver that allows for an early expansion of Medi-Cal coverage, by having the federal government match funds the county already spends on care to the indigent. Fresno County is home to 111,000 individuals who reported being uninsured last year and another 91,000 who reported that they were uninsured part of the last year.

At their meeting this coming Tuesday September 20, 2011, the Fresno Board of Supervisors will consider withdrawing their application to implement a LIHP in the state. They would be leaving over $50 million dollars over two years in federal funding on the table, and turning down the potential economic benefits that would come with covering more low-income individuals. All 58 counties have recognized the enormous opportunity and have put in an application–Fresno would be alone in pulling out.

This issue has been covered by local media, including an article this weekend by Barbara Anderson in the Fresno Bee. Other stories highlighted the issue, with headlines like “Fresno may reject millions in health care funds,” indicating consistent coverage by local television stations:

Here’s another television news story ran Thursday on this threat to health care coverage that features a press conference late last week by numerous local and state community organizations, including Health Access:

Whatever technical and policy issues there are in Fresno County, the answer isn’t to walk away from setting up a Low Income Health Plan and the potentially $28 million a year that it represents to Fresno and its health care system, but to take the time to figure it out.

We encourage those who wish to support expanding health coverage to call or write the Fresno Board of Supervisors or to attend the meeting in person on Tuesday, to urge Fresno to put off the vote.

For more information on this effort in Fresno, contact Rose Auguste at rauguste@health-access.org. For more information about LIHPs in general or in your county, contact Linda Leu at lleu@health-access.org.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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