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November 2011

In 2010, nearly one in six San Diego County residents lived without health insurance. Besides the impact on quality of life, the lack of health coverage also threatens the financial sustainability of the local healthcare system.

The county’s system of nonprofit community clinics and hospitals relies heavily on public funding for programs such as Medi-Cal and Healthy Families. That funding has decreased in recent years as healthcare costs have increased.

As the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) revitalizes delivery of public funding and gives nearly 5 million more Californians access to health coverage, San Diego County must be proactive for the good of community residents and healthcare providers. An estimated 203,000 county residents will be newly eligible for Medi-Cal, and others will be eligible for additional publicly funded programs.  The County needs a program of outreach and education to eligible residents to ensure maximum enrollment in the expanded public programs and subsidized programs available under the ACA.

Findings

1. The structure of the regional economy leads to high rates of uninsurance in San Diego County.

2. San Diego County spends relatively little on the uninsured, compared to other major California counties, and that amount has been diminishing as state funding has decreased.

3. Community clinics and private hospitals are at financial risk as operating funds are disappearing and uninsured rates are rising.

4. The Affordable Care Act provides an opportunity to provide healthcare for many more San Diego County residents – including more than 200,000 newly eligible for Medi-Cal – and to bring badly needed federal funding to the region.