COVID-19 Presented Challenges and Opportunities for the Plan
KTLA Anchor/Reporter Lynette Romero offers a special anniversary message to L.A. Care.
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year for 2020 was pandemic, and the COVID-19 pandemic certainly had a big impact on just about everything L.A. Care did during its 24th year serving Los Angeles County. As the health plan marks its 24th anniversary, it can celebrate all that it did to further its mission of providing access to quality health care for under-resourced and marginalized residents of Los Angeles County even during these challenging times. Not only was our country rocked by a once-in-a-century health crisis, but also by a social justice reckoning, and L.A. Care stepped up on both fronts.
Knowing providers were going to be under considerable strain during the pandemic, L.A. Care took immediate action. The health plan announced a commitment of nearly $120 million dollars to frontline health providers once health officials declared a pandemic. The commitment included up to $85 million in accelerated claims payments to hospitals, more than $21 million in advanced incentive payments to individual primary care physicians and Federal Qualified Health Centers, more than $7 million in accelerated grant payment to clinics and community-based organizations and more than $6 million in target grant support to its most vulnerable members, including those experiencing homelessness.
Efforts to help members and the communities where they live increased as job losses created even greater vulnerabilities. Food insecurity soared, so L.A. Care sponsored or hosted dozens of free drive-thru food pantries, and continues to do so. Even though children weren’t going to in-person school, experts said it was important to maintain routine, like buying school supplies. Job losses made that tough for many families, so L.A. Care held seven back-to-school drive-thru events, handing out free backpacks and school supplies to thousands of children. Some of these events were combined with food pantries.
L.A. Care has always been proud of the services its resource centers offer, not only members, but also the communities where members live. The pandemic forced the centers to close, but it didn’t mean an end to services. L.A. Care quickly jumped to offer virtual programming so resource center visitors could continue to benefit from fitness and nutrition classes. Resource center staff was put to work calling high-risk members to ensure their health and social needs were being met during the lockdown.
Throughout the pandemic, the health plan has been advocating for our members and their communities who have been disproportionally impacted by COVID-19. Health plan leaders were in regular conversations with state and county officials pushing for vaccine equity in the hardest hit communities. Our Chief Medical Officer and Medical Director for Quality, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion both authored Op Eds stressing the need for vaccine equity to slow the disproportionate numbers of cases and deaths in communities of color.
While the nation was reeling from the pain and loss of COVID-19 last summer, it was also shocked to the core by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. L.A. Care issued a statement standing in support of Black Lives Matter and declaring racism a public health issue. But that was just one step the health plan took to address social justice issues in Los Angeles County. The L.A. Care Board of Governors approved a Statement of Principle on Social Justice and Systemic Racism making clear that the health plan does not tolerate racism or discrimination in any form. The statement also called for formation of an Equity Council for equity issues related to L.A. Care employees, members, providers and vendors. The Equity Council wasted no time leading the health plan as it took a stand on various issues and took action, including joining the county’s LA vs Hate Coalition.
Many of the challenges that arose during L.A. Care’s 24th year remain today. As a result, many of programs aimed at helping members and their communities during those first trying months of the pandemic, are continuing to this day. From the beginning of the pandemic, L.A. Care has promised to stand with members, staff, providers, and community partners to get through it together. We are stronger together.
About L.A. Care Health Plan
L.A. Care Health Plan serves more than 2.3 million members in Los Angeles County, making it the largest publicly operated health plan in the country. L.A. Care offers four health coverage plans including Medi-Cal, L.A. Care Covered™, L.A. Care Cal MediConnect Plan and the PASC-SEIU Homecare Workers Health Care Plan, all dedicated to being accountable and responsive to members. As a public entity, L.A. Care’s mission is to provide access to quality health care for L.A. County's low-income communities, and to support the safety net required to achieve that purpose. L.A. Care prioritizes quality, access and inclusion, elevating health care for all of L.A. County. For more information, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.