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Medi-Cal to Offer Unconventional Treatments to Asthma Patients

There are roughly 2 million low-income Californians with asthma who have health insurance coverage from Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program. In 2022, California will begin offering Medi-Cal asthma patients unconventional in-home “treatments” not traditionally considered healthcare. Joel Ervice of PHI’s Regional Asthma Management and Prevention program comments on the new state program for this LA Times/Kaiser Health News story.

  • LA Times/Kaiser Health News
hay bails on a farm on a hazy day

Growing up amid the dusty agricultural fields of the Central Valley, Ruby Marentes-Cabrera can’t recall a time when it wasn’t difficult to breathe.

Diagnosed with asthma early in childhood, the ninth-grader has come to detest the pistachio trees that surround her home because the dust, pesticides and other allergens that blow off the orchards often trigger an asthma attack — even infiltrating her home so that simple chores like vacuuming can be dangerous.

“We live so close to the fields — I breathe the dust and chemicals in,” said Ruby, 14, describing coughing and wheezing fits calmed by puffs from her emergency inhaler or breathing treatments from a nebulizer. “It gets so bad that my back hurts, my head hurts, my lungs hurt. I get sick and it gets really hard to breathe.”

Ruby is among roughly 2 million low-income Californians who have health insurance coverage from Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program, and have been diagnosed with asthma. Beginning in January, California will embark on an ambitious experiment to control asthma in its most vulnerable patients. Medi-Cal will offer recipients like Ruby unconventional in-home “treatments” not traditionally considered healthcare: removing mold, installing air purifiers and even replacing carpeting, blinds and mattresses.

Ruby and her family, who live in Madera, Calif., appear to be ideal candidates for state-funded asthma benefits, said Joel Ervice, associate director of Regional Asthma Management and Prevention, which lobbied for the new services. Both Ruby and her sister Yesenia, 20, have asthma and were frequent visitors to the ER during childhood.

But as in the Inland Empire, only a small share of Central Valley asthma patients will receive the new services initially. Ruby and her family hope they will be among the lucky ones but realize they may still have to rely on conventional treatments such as emergency inhalers — and the hospital if necessary.

“Right now, these conversations around identifying partners to deliver these asthma remediation services are fluid,” CalViva Health CEO Jeffrey Nkansah said. “We’re still working hard to make sure we can get those services in place for Jan. 1.”

Click below to read the full story in the LA Times.

Originally published by Los Angeles Times/Kaiser Health News

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