About Jenna Archer, Legal Assistant

Legal Assistant for the Equal Access to Healthcare Program and the Benefits Counseling Program

PRC In the Community: San Francisco AIDS Walk

This July, Positive Resource Center (PRC) participated in the 29th annual AIDS Walk San Francisco, joining 20,000 community members in support of HIV programs and services in the Bay Area. This event raised over $1.9 million, benefiting over 40 different HIV/AIDS service and advocacy organizations in the Bay Area, including Positive Resource Center.

Team PRC surpassed its fundraising goal, raising a total of over $4,900. At the Walk, PRC staff members were joined by family and friends who came out to support the team on their trek.aidswalk

The 10K (or about 6 miles) San Francisco AIDS Walk looped through Golden Gate Park on an uncharacteristically hot day for San Francisco. The temperature reached the upper 80s and the skies were clear and sunny. Thankfully, AIDS Walk volunteers were sure to keep walkers fueled and hydrated at the four checkpoints of the walk, and the team cheered each other on all the way to the finish line.

Beyond fundraising, this annual event is an opportunity for the San Francisco community to come together in celebration of how far we’ve come and to reflect on the work that still needs to be done to support people living with or at risk of HIV/AIDS. The 20,000 walkers braving the heat and the distance as well as all of the generous contributors to AIDS Walk demonstrate just how much the San Francisco community cares about continuing to support HIV programs and services.

It’s not too late to show your support! You can still be a part of AIDS Walk and support PRC by donating online up until August 14.

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Happy Birthday to the Equal Access to Healthcare Program

The end of June marked an important milestone for the Equal Access to Healthcare Program (EAHP): the end of the program’s first full year!

Just to name a few of EAHP’s accomplishments this year, EAHP attorneys and advocates served over 250 clients, completed over a dozen outreach and provider training events for community partners, and of all closed cases, over 95% of our clients obtained, preserved, or increased healthcare access. For more information on EAHP’s accomplishments as well as our policy recommendations to help expand access to care, look for our upcoming annual report.

To celebrate EAHP’s first birthday, a few of the staff members on the team have reflected on their experiences with EAHP:

Chuan Teng, Supervising Attorney

Chuan Teng, Supervising Attorney

“The ACA has provided greater healthcare access for our clients, but healthcare navigation is still very confusing, if not more confusing than it was pre-ACA. Our clients require more information about how to access the right insurance to meet healthcare needs, reducing out-of-pocket costs, and ensuring that healthcare programs work together seamlessly. I’m thankful the S.F. HIV community has access to EAHP services, but I do wonder about the millions of others who do not and face complicated healthcare access challenges.” Continue reading

ACA+HIV: A Frontline View

Earlier this month, San Francisco HIV frontline workers convened to discuss San Francisco’s HIV systems of care and the effect of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on these systems.

Over 50 frontline workers from 19 different organizations joined the conversation. Participants included case managers, benefits counselors, social workers, peer advocates, and medical providers.

San Francisco HIV Frontline Workers

Andy Scheer presents on changes in the HIV Systems of Care

The meeting opened with welcomes from Dean Goodwin, HIV Health Services Administrator of the San Francisco Department of Public Health and Shannon Weber of Getting to Zero, a coalition of organizations whose goal is to get to zero new HIV infections, zero HIV deaths, and zero HIV stigma in San Francisco.

Following their remarks, Andy Scheer, a medical social worker at SF City Clinic, gave a presentation on the ACA and changes in San Francisco’s HIV systems of care. Andy’s comments addressed greater accessibility of health insurance through Medi-Cal expansion and Covered CA (the healthcare marketplace established by the ACA); the intersection between health insurance, public benefits, and taxes; the impact of same-sex marriage on access to government benefits; and changes at the local level, such as SFDPH’s shift away from a specialized care clinic model to an integrated treatment model.

Keeping up with all these changes is challenging, and in a quick survey of participating frontline workers, seven out of ten responded that the ACA makes them want to “hide under their desk.” However, attendees recognized the importance of HIV frontline workers being fully informed and having up-to-date information about systems of care to best serve San Francisco’s HIV positive community. Though it is difficult to keep up with and adapt to all of the changes in HIV systems of care, the continued hard work of frontline workers is worthwhile because the changes brought by the ACA will ultimately strengthen the healthcare system and make care more accessible. Continue reading

Legal Assistance is Vital for HIV+ Individuals

Last month, the UCLA School of Law published a report assessing the legal needs of people living with HIV in Los Angeles County. This study, which focused on low-income and unemployed HIV positive people, highlights just how important legal advocacy services are for people living with HIV.

Almost all respondents to this study, 98 percent, reported they needed legal help during the past year. However, very few were able to access legal services. Only 28 percent sought help, and only 16 percent were able to access the help that they needed. With an estimated 58,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in LA County, this suggests that over 47,700 people living with HIV in LA County were unable to access needed legal help.

Respondents reported many barriers to accessing legal services. These barriers included not knowing where to call to ask for legal help, worrying that the legal service provider understood their specific needs as a person living with HIV/AIDS, and being unable to afford legal services.

This significant unmet need for legal assistance directly impacts the health and wellbeing of HIV positive people. Because of the legal issues that they faced, seven out of ten survey respondents reported difficulty carrying on normal life and six out of ten reported stress-related illness. One out of four respondents reported a negative impact on their physical health because of these unmet legal needs. Many also reported difficulty accessing healthcare services or taking medications, as well as financial hardship. Continue reading

Waiting for Care: CA Superior Court Rules that Medi-Cal Backlogs are Unacceptable

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), healthcare is now within reach to even more Americans than ever. The Covered CA health insurance marketplace allows many middle-income individuals to access subsidized private plans. Low-income Californians also benefit from the ACA due to increased the expansion of Medi-Cal.

Despite these steps forward in making healthcare available to all Californians, Medi-Cal applicants have found their access blocked by a substantial backlog in processing Medi-Cal applications, which reached a high of 900,000 in March 2014. That’s almost a million Californians who were unable to access care.

The Alameda County Courthouse, where Rivera v California Department of Health Services was argued.

The Alameda County Courthouse, where Rivera v California Department of Health Services was argued.

These backlogged applicants found themselves waiting for months just to hear whether or not their application had been approved, even though the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) is required to process applications within 45 days according to timeliness standards.

In response to this backlog, Frances Rivera, Mark Mullin, Ebony Pickett, Groto Ni, and Maternal and Child Health Access filed suit against DHCS.

In the case of Rivera v. California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), the Plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction against the DHCS for failing to provide provisional Medi-Cal benefits to backlogged applicants and for failing to provide individualized notices to backlogged applicants who were not afforded provisional benefits of their right to request a hearing.

The backlog had very real consequences for those seeking access to healthcare. One of the plaintiffs, Frances Rivera, agreed to be part of the lawsuit after her son, Robert Cribbs, died from a pulmonary embolism while waiting for his application to be processed. Seven weeks after his death, his mother received a letter stating he had been approved for Medi-Cal which she described as “a knife stuck in my heart.” Continue reading

We’ve Got This! Health Access for HIV+ Older Adults

weve got this 1If you are an HIV+ older adult in San Francisco who is interested in learning more about your healthcare options, Positive Resource Center (PRC) is hosting an event just for you. Thursday, February 26, from 4 to 8 pm at the San Francisco LGBT Center we will be hosting “We’ve Got This! Health Access for HIV+ Older Adults” to give an overview of coverage options and to provide a step-by-step roadmap to accessing services.

PRC knows that accessing healthcare can be a challenge because figuring out what programs are available to you and how to enroll in them can be difficult, and access to healthcare for all HIV-positive individuals is one of our top priorities.

The event will kick off at 4:00pm with registration and an Opportunity Fair where various community-based organizations will provide information and in-depth consultations on their services, allowing you to connect directly with people who can support and advocate for you. While the Opportunity Fair will be ongoing throughout the entire event, we have even more planned to help you get covered.weve got this 2

At 4:30 pm, “Panel I: What’s Out There” will provide an overview of the range of healthcare coverage options available to HIV+ older adults. Continue reading

Open Enrollment Ends February 15th – Get Covered Today!

Uninsured? Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), healthcare is more accessible than ever. Open enrollment for health insurance made available through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ends on February 15th, so don’t miss the opportunity to get covered through Covered CA today!CC_Horz_CMYK_Logo

This year, over 7 million people have enrolled in healthcare coverage through the health care marketplace established under the ACA. This is largely because the ACA makes healthcare more affordable through government subsidies and eliminates barriers to coverage for people with pre-existing conditions such as HIV/AIDS. Because of this, the ACA has a strong impact on low income people and people living with HIV/AIDS, communities that Positive Resource Center (PRC) has been advocating for and supporting for over 27 years.

Here, at PRC, we have expanded our services to serve clients dealing with health access issues through our new Equal Access to Healthcare Program (EAHP). The program aims to identify and overcome barriers to healthcare access for HIV-positive San Francisco residents through counseling and advocacy. PRC’s team of health access counselors are experts in navigating the healthcare system. Counselors can help determine what healthcare programs you may be eligible for and assist you in resolving healthcare access problems.

Also, if you need help purchasing health insurance through Covered CA or do not have computer access, come to our Open Enrollment Lab, where our staff can guide you through the enrollment process. Drop-in hours are from 9:15AM to 12:00PM Monday through Friday.

The ACA is working for millions of Americans, and it can work for you too, so don’t miss the February 15th deadline to get covered. Sing up today through the Covered CA, and remember that here at EAHP, we are always there to lend a helping hand!