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Orange County’s public health insurance program is moving forward with Supervisor Andrew Do’s homeless health care action plan to address the rising number of homeless deaths.
At a special Thursday meeting, CalOptima, the county’s $3.5 billion health insurance program for patients that are poor, elderly and homeless, passed Supervisor Do’s proposal to spend $60 million for homeless services, including recuperative care, residential support, mobile health teams and health clinics at local homeless shelters.
In May, Supervisor Do proposed the homeless health care action plan to speed up the delivery of health care services to indigent patients, which had been mired in bureaucratic red tape.
“Finally,” Supervisor Do said, expressing his frustration with CalOptima’s slow response to the homeless crisis. “This health care action plan will help homeless patients access life-saving medical care and provide our homeless shelters with the support they need.”
CalOptima’s Delayed Response to Homeless Deaths
Last year, Orange County saw a troubling increase in the number of homeless deaths – with 210 people dying on local streets. Nearly three in every four of these homeless deaths were members of CalOptima.
In February, CalOptima bowed to pressure from U.S. District Court Judge David Carter and approved funding for unspecified homeless programs, but delayed their implementation.
“Such a delay is unconscionable,” Supervisor Do wrote last month in a letter calling on CalOptima to take action. “Homeless residents are, by definition, indigent. They should receive the health care they need.”
Supervisor Do was joined by local homeless advocates and health care leaders in pressing CalOptima to act.
“There is no reason for this to go on,” Father Dennis Kriz, a Fullerton priest who works with the homeless, said of CalOptima’s delayed care.
$60 Million C.A.R.E Program
An estimated 10,000 homeless people in Orange County are CalOptima members, according to an agency analysis released earlier this month. Under Supervisor Do’s C.A.R.E plan, these CalOptima members will benefit from:
$20 million for recuperative care for patients with chronic conditions
$20 million for residential support services
$10 million for clinics at all local homeless shelters
$10 million for mobile health teams
By providing recuperative care for homeless patients with chronic conditions, Supervisor Do expects to reduce the revolving door at Orange County emergency rooms and medical facilities. A 2017 study by Orange County United Way estimated that approximately $121 million was spent providing health care to Orange County’s homeless patients -- with return emergency room visits a cost multiplier.
“I am grateful to Father Kriz for his leadership in compiling the data and demanding action,” said Supervisor Do. “CalOptima is finally accepting responsibility to provide homeless patients with the care they need.”