Don’t disrupt health care coverage of our most vulnerable

A physician checks the medical history of a hospital patient. (Photo: L.O.N. DsIr Cameravia Shutterstock)

As a founder of Sacramento Street Medicine, I have provided medical care to hundreds of Sacramento County’s most at-risk residents for years. These residents must overcome unique barriers to health that other people don’t face — a lack of housing, inadequate transportation, varying health literacy skills and other issues. I’ve had the privilege of delivering the wraparound care these patients need to the best of our abilities through street medicine.

In working closely with our main partner, Health Net, I was both disappointed and disheartened to hear that the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) recently announced their intent to drop Health Net as an option for Medi-Cal patients in Sacramento County — a decision that is sure to affect the physical and mental health needs of the unhoused patients we serve.

Health Net has been a large proponent of our work at Sacramento Street Medicine since our inception many years ago. I’ve appreciated our collaborative partnership with Health Net for a variety of reasons.

First, through their continued support, they’ve demonstrated both their dedication to address the social factors that negatively impact the health of our most vulnerable residents. In my interaction with patients, they are pleased with the service Health Net provides. From a humanistic and medical standpoint, I could imagine my patients’ frustration of being forced to drop their health plan and engage with a new plan that has no standing with respect to their dedication to the unhoused community.

As a company based in Sacramento, Health Net is embedded in the community they serve. Through their support, they have shown their dedication to serve the people within the community they both help employ and provide care for – including the unhoused.

At Sacramento Street Medicine, we have a close working relationship with local Health Net team members as we work together to implement how CalAIM can best serve the folks we care for living outside. In doing so, we have had the pleasure of working directly and indirectly alongside many of Health Net’s partners within the Sacramento community: First 5 Sacramento, Sacramento Street Medicine, Central Valley Health Network, Greater Sacramento Urban League, La Familia, United Way of Greater Sacramento and many others.

Many of these health care delivery, equity and CalAIM-involved community based organizations in Sacramento were the beneficiary and supporters of Health Net’s application during DHCS’s Medi-Cal contracting process.

In recently discussing our plans for our patients with respect to CalAIM, I was made aware of the decision to remove Health Net as a provider within our community. With this move, I feel that DHCS is putting the success of a well-intentioned program at risk.

As the state’s forward-thinking initiative to modernize Medi-Cal, CalAIM could provide incredible resources and care for the patients we serve. By dropping Health Net in the midst of the program’s launch, it would inevitably affect our work at Sacramento Street Medicine, but more importantly, the health outcomes of the patients CalAIM intends to serve. Again, putting the health and wellbeing of our most vulnerable residents at risk.

Health Net has already established itself as an integral partner within our local healthcare ecosystem — serving within the Sacramento County Health Authority Commission, Sacramento Continuum of Care Board, Continuum of Care System Performance Commit tee, Sacramento Steps Forward, First 5 Sacramento, Greater Sacramento Economic Council, Sacramento Latino Medical Association and many others.

In short, the community needs the work of Health Net to continue – most especially as we make the turn of healthcare for the better through CalAIM. To achieve this, we strongly urge DHCS to reverse itself and keep Health Net as an option in Sacramento County for all Med-Cal patients.

Editor’s Note: Anthony Menacho, MPAP, PA-C, is founder and executive director of Sacramento Street Medicine.


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