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

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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