County supervisors Tuesday are expected to amend the county budget in order to accept $2.2 million in state and federal grant money that will be used to hire 24 new fulltime employees who will implement the federal Affordable Care Act.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obama Care, will greatly expand the number of Americans who have health insurance. People can begin signing up for the expanded coverage Oct. 1.
The money will be spent to establish and staff a call center that will help people sign up for the new insurance under Medi-Cal and the state’s Covered California private insurance program and manage the increased caseload, said Lee Collins, county Social Services director. The call center will be open six days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
“San Luis Obispo County’s applications for Medi-Cal are expected to increase by 9,179 – a major increase in the context of a program that currently is averaging 11,457 cases per month and just over 800 new applications monthly,” he said. “Additionally, it is projected that we will process 999 new applications for coverage under Covered California.”
The funds will come entirely from state and federal Medi-Cal revenues and no county funds will be used. Seventy-nine percent of the money will go directly to salaries with the rest kept in reserve for potential increases in overhead costs.
The adjustment will take the county through the end of this fiscal year June 30, 2014. The new positions are expected to be permanent, although it is unclear exactly how full implementation of the new act will impact the county in terms of the number of employees that will be needed to administer it, Collins said.
The Affordable Care Act enacted in 2010 was the most sweeping overhaul of the nation’s health care system since 1965 when Medicare and Medicaid were enacted. It is intended to increase the number of Americans insured, expand coverage for those already insured and reduce health care costs.
The federal law will expand Medi-Cal coverage to mostly low-income single adults. The state’s companion legislation, Covered California, will expand coverage to others through private insurance pools.
This item is scheduled as part of the supervisors’ morning agenda. Because it is a budget adjustment, all four supervisors will have to vote to approve the change.