Big changes in store for Community Health Alliance of Pasadena
By Rebecca Kuzins 01/30/2013
Community Health Alliance of Pasadena (CHAP) is expanding its facilities, staff and services to accommodate an expected influx of low-income patients who will be eligible for insurance next year under the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Beginning Jan. 1, the act, more commonly known as Obamacare, will expand eligibility for Medi-Cal, California’s federally-funded health care program. Individuals and families will be able to receive Medi-Cal benefits if their annual incomes are at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $21,660 for individuals and $44,100 for a family of four.
CHAP CEO Margie Martinez said her organization expects its patient load to increase as a result of the law. “We are becoming the foundation for a group of people who were not able to access Medi-Cal before. We’re here for them,” she said. She added that CHAP might also obtain new patients who qualify for federally subsidized private insurance plans to be purchased through a new California health exchange.
CHAP currently serves more than 15,000 patients, whom Martinez said are “usually low-income, uninsured and underserved.” Last year, these patients made more than 55,000 visits to receive medical, dental and behavioral counseling services at three clinics in Pasadena. This number, however, is far fewer than the 553,000 poverty-level individuals living in the San Gabriel Valley.
In an effort to serve these patients, CHAP is opening a clinic in El Monte next month, where it will initially offer pediatric and obstetric-gynecological care before expanding to provide a broader range of services. The organization is changing its name to ChapCare, because “we’re not just a health alliance in Pasadena,” said Martinez.
CHAP is also expanding its Pasadena facilities. Pacific Clinics, a behavioral care provider, is vacating the space it shares with CHAP’s medical and dental health center at 1855 N. Fair Oaks Ave., and CHAP will take over the vacated space. CHAP has also applied for a state permit that will enable the organization to dispense prescription drugs at its health center at 3160 E. Del Mar Blvd., as it currently does at the Fair Oaks clinic. Martinez said the new dispensary will save patients trips to the pharmacy to fill their prescriptions.
The organization also plans to hire another five to 10 full-time staff members to augment its staff of 99 physicians and other employees. Martinez said the clinics also could extend their hours of operation to accommodate new patients. n