About This Series
This series focuses on the challenges of addressing the health and health care needs, both related and unrelated to the pandemic, of people who are homeless, and spotlights emerging care innovations, partnerships, and practices across the state. See the full Homelessness and COVID-19 series.
People experiencing homelessness are one of the populations most impacted by COVID-19 in California because they lack protection from the environment, adequate access to hygiene and sanitation facilities, or connection to services and health care. Numerous entities across the state, including public health departments, health care organizations, and housing providers, are working to address the health and social needs of this population during the current crisis. Within this ecosystem of response efforts, California’s Medicaid managed care plans have a particularly valuable role to play to support this population.
L.A. Care Health Plan (L.A. Care), which serves over 2.1 million members in Los Angeles County, is one example of a plan that rapidly recalibrated existing homelessness support services to address the immediate needs of people experiencing homelessness related to COVID-19 pandemic. The size of the county’s homeless population — estimated by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) at 66,436 as of January 2020, a nearly 13% increase over last year — and the number of L.A. Care’s membership who experience homelessness (roughly 33% of all those experiencing homelessness in the county) necessitated that L.A. Care develop a multifaceted approach to serving this population.
The health plan’s approach includes collaborative efforts with key local partners such as Brilliant Corners, a nonprofit partner with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services Housing for Health program. Prior to the pandemic, L.A. Care announced a $20 million commitment to Brilliant Corners to support permanent supportive housing under the Whole Person Care program, an initiative under California’s 1115 waiver through which LA County obtains federal matching dollars to provide wraparound services to high-risk Medi-Cal enrollees. The LA County Department of Health Services leads the effort and has developed multiple programs that address social determinants of health for high-risk populations.
A second part of its approach builds on its role as a Health Home lead entity in LA County. L.A. Care’s Health Homes Program provides team-based, in-person care coordination for the chronically ill and highest-risk members. L.A. Care has been able to prioritize members experiencing homelessness by providing Medi-Cal-funded housing navigation and tenancy support services through its partner service providers, called Community-Based Care Management Entities. These continuing efforts have been an important foundation in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and its unique impact on people experiencing homelessness.
The Center for Health Care Strategies spoke with Alison Klurfeld, Director of Safety Net Programs and Partnerships at L.A. Care, to discuss how the health plan has been supporting those experiencing homeless during the pandemic, why health plans are uniquely positioned to help address the needs of this population in this moment, how L.A. Care’s response has evolved since the beginning of the pandemic, and the challenges that still remain.