Marin Community Clinics is joining a statewide effort among community health centers to expand health care coverage to low-income adults who do not have immigration documentation.

The Path to Health program, sponsored by California’s County Medical Services Program, opens up the health care services available to adults. Sponsors said previously they would have been eligible for emergency care only through the Medi-Cal program. The Path program will provide primary, specialty, and preventive care. The effort is aimed at improving patient health, reducing use of emergency rooms and hospitals and expanding community health centers’ services to the uninsured.

Previously, this population was only eligible for a restricted (emergency care-only) Medi-Cal program, the clinics’ announcement stated. The new program will give eligible adults access to primary, specialty and preventive care. The goals are to improve health outcomes, reduce the use of emergency rooms and hospitals, and help community health centers expand outreach to the uninsured.

The federally qualified not-for-profit Marin Community Clinics system states it is the largest safety net provider for low-income people who do not have insurance. Its clinicians, other staff and volunteers serve over 37,000 individuals/year at nine clinics across Marin.

Marin will be among 11 community health centers across the state participating in the pilot program.

Mitesh Popat, M.D., M.P.H., the clinics’ CEO, said that participation is driven by a marked increase in visits from uninsured patients.

“Since December 2016, we have seen an unprecedented 60 percent increase in visits from uninsured patients – a direct result of families either not enrolling in or not renewing their insurance coverage because of fears related to immigration issues. We wanted to make a difference in this untenable situation, so decided to submit an application,” Popat said.

He said the program could result in some patients for the first time receiving medical attention that was non-emergency in nature. Popat estimated in Marin the program could reach about 4,000 patients over the next two years.

The clinics stated Path to Health will be open to low-income adults ages 21 to 64 who do not have immigration documentation and are currently enrolled in Medi-Cal’s emergency services program. Many of the services patients would receive will not require a co-pay; if a co-pay is required, the clinics’ sliding fee scale will be available. Marin will receive reimbursement for services from the State.

Efforts will be made, the announcement stated, to insure that a patients’ immigration status is protected.

“Our outreach staff is already hard at work in the community to get the word out, including making home visits and telephone calls,” Popat stated.