When Alberto came down with a bad case of strep throat last winter, he was running a 103-degree fever, and his throat hurt so much he could only swallow soft food or liquid.
Alberto is a 24-year-old full-time community college student in Fresno, California, whose parents can’t afford health coverage for him, and he’s unable to get coverage on his own. Up until a couple of years ago as a young adult, he had no health care plan at all. But then he found out he could get deeply subsidized health coverage through Kaiser Permanente’s Charitable Health Coverage program, known as the Community Health Care Program in Northern California. (Alberto declined to provide his last name out of privacy concerns.)
“If my strep throat had happened when I didn’t have coverage, I would have just dealt with the pain and waited for it to go away,” he said. “I was happy that I was able to get it checked out, and they gave me an antibiotic and medication for the pain.”
Lowering Financial Barriers
In 2019, 6,800 people were served by Kaiser Permanente Northern California’s Charitable Health Coverage Program, and more than 118,000 patients benefitted from its Medical Financial Assistance program. Together, the 2 programs represent a 2019 investment of nearly $235 million to help ensure that people in need received health care.
Kaiser Permanente’s Charitable Health Coverage Program provides subsidized health care and coverage to low-income individuals and families who don’t have access to other public or private health coverage. Individuals who qualify are enrolled in a Kaiser Permanente plan and do not have to pay out-of-pocket costs for most care at Kaiser Permanente facilities.
“We’re proud of these programs because they offer low-income members of our communities a medical home, access to our prevention programs, and timely, high-quality care,” said Nate Oubre, California vice president, Medi-Cal, Children’s Health Insurance Program, and Charitable Health Coverage.
“We know that people are losing their jobs and losing health coverage. Our Medical Financial Assistance and Charitable Health Coverage are there for our members and our communities in these uncertain times.”
Kaiser Permanente’s Medical Financial Assistance program provides temporary financial assistance or free care to low-income, uninsured, and underinsured patients who receive health care services from Kaiser Permanente providers. In addition to hospital-based services, the program covers all medically necessary services provided at Kaiser Permanente facilities, including prescriptions, procedures, diagnostic tests, and visits to primary or specialty care providers.
Amid the public health and economic crises brought on by COVID-19, Grace Chang, executive director, Kaiser Permanente Charitable Care and Coverage, said the 2 Kaiser Permanente programs are “more important than ever.”
“We know that people are losing their jobs and losing health coverage,” she said. “Our Medical Financial Assistance and Charitable Health Coverage are there for our members and our communities in these uncertain times.”
Commitment to Improving Access
Improving access to health care for people with limited incomes and resources is fundamental to Kaiser Permanente’s nonprofit mission.
“We know that people who are struggling financially will delay or defer treatment if they can’t afford it,” said Yvette Radford, vice president, External and Community Affairs, Kaiser Permanente Northern California. “Our programs help people get the care they need, when they need it.”
In the past year, with Kaiser Permanente’s Charitable Health Coverage Program, Alberto was also able to get a swift diagnosis, arthroscopic surgery, and physical therapy to treat ongoing pain he had been experiencing in his knees. The care has enabled him to return to exercising and to his part-time job as a soccer referee. He said it’s also given him peace of mind.
“I know if I get hurt or I get sick, I can get help at Kaiser Permanente,” he said.