According to a new report, 9 percent of children nationwide were without health insurance "at any time during 2011." In South Los Angeles, nearly 7 percent of children were uninsured – higher than the countywide average of 5 percent.
More than 1 in 5 children in the U.S. lived in poverty in 2011, and that rate was disproportionately higher among ethnic children.
That's just one finding from a new report compiled by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics (FIFCFS), which looked at how children were faring in a wide range of measures, including health, economics and safety. (Read the full report below.)
The county's public health department says in South Los Angeles, more than 31 percent of households had incomes below the federal poverty level in 2011. That's the highest such rate in the county, and well above the rate detailed in the report from the FIFCFS.
Here's how South L.A. compared to the overall U.S. on a few key health-related measures:
- Nationwide, 9 percent of children were without health insurance "at any time during 2011." In South Los Angeles, nearly 7 percent of children were uninsured – higher than the countywide average of 5 percent.
- That same year, about 4 percent of children in the U.S. had no consistent source of health care. In South L.A., that was true of more than 7 percent of children.
- About 87 percent of U.S. children (between 5 and 17) saw a dentist in 2011 – a year when about 15 percent of South L.A. children weren't able to obtain dental care because they couldn't afford it.
- South L.A. had a considerably lower rate of teenage girls who received at least one dose of the HPV vaccine: about 29 percent, compared to 53 percent nationwide.
- About 1 in 10 children in the U.S. have asthma; that's true of about 9 percent of South L.A. kids.
UMMA Community Clinic was one of 33 L.A. County health centers to receive federal funding to help patients learn about their insurance options under the Affordable Care Act.
The federal government is giving a lot of money to community health centers so they can teach patients about the ins and outs of health care reform – and Los Angeles is no exception.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced on Wednesday that more than 1,100 health centers across the U.S. were awarded grants totaling $150 million in order to fund the effort to enroll millions of people into health insurance.
Thirty-three of those grants went to L.A. County, which collectively received more than $6.2 million. Of those 33 health centers, 10 are either located in South L.A. or serve patients from the area. The list includes:
- Central City Community Health Center, Inc. ($143,612)
- Eisner Pediatric & Family Medical Center ($185,456)
- JWCH Institute, Inc. ($282,245)
- Northeast Community Clinic, Inc. ($99,326)
- South Bay Family Health Center ($136,814)
- South Central Family Health Center ($171,574)
- St. John's Well Child and Family Center ($300,769)
- T.H.E. Clinic, Inc. ($120,391)
- UMMA Community Clinic ($94,000)
- Watts Healthcare Corporation ($142,710)
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Researchers said patients on the low end of the socioeconomic scale find hospital and E.R. care to be more affordable, trustworthy and convenient than primary care.
When low-income patients compare hospital care to primary care, they find the former to be more affordable, convenient and trustworthy than the latter.
And that, according to a new study from the University of Pennsylvania, is why those patients tend to use emergency rooms and hospitals more heavily than primary care.
Low-income patients are the norm in South Los Angeles, particularly at community health centers like UMMA Community Clinic. Dr. Tipu Khan is a family physician and the lead obstetrics provider there. He says the patient mentality described in the study is certainly a reality, but "changing a little bit."
"I think it really varies," said Khan. "That's what it used to be prior to the advent of patient-centered medical homes."
Khan said before community health centers started "really boosting up" their presence in South L.A., most safety-net care was provided by county clinics, which he described as "overrun, overburdened and overstaffed." He would know, because he used to work in the county system. Now, though, UMMA is doing better at keeping patients away from unnecessary visits to the E.R. or the hospital, in part through educating patients on why primary and preventive care make for better health outcomes in the long-run.
Medical records. A one-year delay in the Affordable Care Act's requirement that large and medium companies provide their employees with health insurance will have "some impact" in South Los Angeles, according to St. John's Well Child and Family Center CEO Jim Mangia.
Large and medium companies will have one more year until they're required to provide their employees with health insurance under Obamacare, the Obama Administration announced last Tuesday, which gives those companies until 2015 to fulfill the requirement or face fines.
The requirement — which is part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and was originally set to go into effect on the first day of 2014 — means that companies with 50 or more workers must provide affordable health insurance to their full-time employees or else risk tax penalties.
In South Los Angeles, the delay will have "some impact." That's according to Jim Mangia, the president and CEO of St. John's Well Child and Family Center.
"There are patients of St. John's who will have to have insurance through their employers that are not currently providing it," he said. "A large number of our uninsured patients are currently employed."
The onsite dispensary at UMMA Community Clinic in South Los Angeles. Insurance companies regulate how doctors prescribe certain medications, and most of the time, that works out just fine for patients. But there are exceptions.
Loretta Jones doesn't hesitate upon being asked to describe her life living with fibromyalgia.
"It is so painful," she says. "It's so deep into your joint areas."
Jones, 72, is the CEO of Healthy African American Families, a South Los Angeles-based advocacy program that focuses on the health of minority communities.
"Say you had to get up, and someone took a knife and stuck it into you," she said. "And twisted it. That's how this pain feels."
To alleviate the long-term, body-wide pain that fibromyalgia causes, Jones' doctor prescribed the drug Lyrica. But Jones, who has good health insurance, said it took her a year-and-a-half to fill the prescription, because her insurance company had her on a regimen known as step therapy.
What is step therapy?
Dr. Derrick Butler, the associate medical director at T.H.E. Clinic in South L.A., said step therapy is implemented by insurance companies to regulate how doctors prescribe medicine.