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Medi-Cal expanding under Affordable Care Act

Medi-Cal is expanding under the Affordable Care Act and in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, which means thousands more will be eligible.

Santa Barbara County Social Services is gearing up for new clients and are adding 53 positions to manage those newly eligible for Medi-Cal.

“So we can make sure that any client who wishes to apply will get their case processed timely,” said Mario Velasco of social services.

The Affordable Care Act is expanding the program and eliminating previous restrictions.

“Before you had to be either under 21, or over 65 years of age, or you had to be disabled,” explained Velasco.

Now the program is based on income alone.

A single person can make up to $15,856 a year to qualify. For a family of four, the income can be $32,499.

“What that’s going to mean as a practical matter, for the Central Coast is about 30,000 additional people will become eligible for Medi-Cal that are not eligible today,” said Bob Freeman, the CenCal Health chief executive officer.

CenCal is the Medi-Cal health plan that more than 100,000 Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo county residents are enrolled in. With the additional 30,000 people that are able to get free insurance, Freeman thinks it will lighten the financial burden put on clinics and emergency rooms.

“You can treat the bronchitis before it develops into pneumonia, you can get your kids vaccines so they don’t catch something at school and that’s better for everybody. It’s better for the patient, it’s better for the community and it’s better for the society in the sense of funding healthcare more efficiently,” said Freeman.

In just the first two days of pre-enrollment, social services has seen an uptick in clients asking about how they can qualify.

“You can apply from home, or anywhere that you have a computer, you can call us by phone or you can come to our office. There are many ways. There is no wrong door,” said Velasco.

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