Sonoma County to launch 'bridge to health reform' in 2012

SONOMA COUNTY – Sonoma County is gearing up to launch what it describes as a “bridge to health reform” that aims to provide coverage for more uninsured residents until 2014, when numerous key provisions of the health bill take effect.

The Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, authorized states to expand coverage for childless adults of 133 percent below the federal poverty line, in anticipation of health care reform.

In order to meet that expansion, Sonoma County, along with 33 other counties, will contract with the County Medical Services Program, which is operated by the state, to implement the bridge in coverage.

In March, CMSP, on behalf of the participating counties, submitted its application to participate in the Low Income Health Program, which calls on counties to expand primary care services for the uninsured, to the state Department of Health Care Services. Locally, the Low Income Health Program will be known as Path2Health.

Path2Health, a two-year pilot project, will take effect January 2012 and last through the end of 2013.

Sonoma County has contracted with the County Medical Services Program since 1983, when the program was formed.

County health officials anticipate that Path2Health will improve coverage significantly.

“This is intended to be a bridge to health reform until 2014,” said Rod Stroud, an administrative services officer for the Department of Health Services.

Mr. Stroud said the CMSP program currently has about 8,000 enrollees, and it anticipates adding 2,000 to 2,500 enrollees in January 2012, when the Path2Health takes effect.

Sonoma County spends roughly $13.5 million every year for the County Medical Service Program, Mr. Stroud said, but receives close to $30 million in services provided. Counties that participate in CMSP also receive federal matching grants to help  with the cost.

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