New study: 772,000 elderly Californians “unofficially” poor

[ Posted on August 31st, 2015 by Center Communications | No Comments » ]


Nearly 1 in 5 adults over 65 in California — more than three-quarters of a million people — live in an economic no-man’s land, unable to afford basic needs but often ineligible for government assistance, according to a new study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

The study, funded by the California Wellness Foundation, highlights the plight of the “hidden poor” — those who live in the gap between the federal poverty level (FPL) and the Elder Index‘s poverty measure, which is considered a more accurate estimate of what it takes to have a decent standard of living. The Elder Index accounts for geographic differences in costs for housing, medical care, food and transportation. The national federal poverty level guidelines say a single elderly adult living alone should be able to live on $10,890 a year, while the Elder Index estimates that person in California on average requires $23,364.



“Many of our older adults are forced to choose between eating, taking their medications or paying rent,” said D. Imelda Padilla-Frausto, a UCLA graduate student researcher at the center and lead author of the study. “The state might be emerging from a recession, but for many of our elder households, the downturn seems permanent.”

According to the study, about 772,000 elderly adults in California who are heads of households belong to this group of hidden poor, which is more than double the number of elderly (342,000) who meet federal poverty level guidelines. Unlike the “official” poor, the hidden poor often do not qualify for public assistance.

The study, which used 2009-2011 American Community Survey data and the 2011 Elder Index data, showed that in terms of sheer numbers, whites make up more than half of elders in the financially pinched group (482,000). Proportionately, grandparents raising grandchildren, older adults who rent, Latinos, women, and the oldest age group (75 and over) were the groups most affected.

Read more about the study here, and see related charts that show the hidden poor by gender, FPL, age, race and other categories.

Kaiser survey: 2 of 3 who were uninsured before full ACA enactment now covered

[ Posted on August 3rd, 2015 by Center Communications | No Comments » ]

Center for Health Policy Research - 101202More than two-thirds of those who were uninsured before the Affordable Care Act was fully implemented now have coverage, according to a KQED State of Health story based on a Kaiser Family Foundation survey. Center Director Gerald Kominski cautioned that the survey findings have a limitation and exclude Californians who had insurance pre-ACA and lost it. But he added that the findings were “obviously very good news.” The largest share of the newly insured — about one-third —  gained coverage through Medi-Cal, according to the story.

Nearly a third of those surveyed this year — 32 percent — are still uninsured, the story reports, and many of them fall into two categories: One group, about four in 10, are undocumented immigrants and ineligible for coverage; the other group is long-time uninsured.

In the survey, 85 percent of the uninsured say paying for health care is their top financial concern — ahead of paying their mortgage or rent. But among those who have gained coverage, paying for health care now ranks fourth among financial concerns — behind rent/mortgage, utilities and gasoline.

“It’s below the price of gas,” said UCLA’s Kominski. “I found that truly remarkable … the fact that health care for people newly insured (is) no longer a primary concern, I think is significant.”

Read the story.

Grant to study mental health services for seniors

[ Posted on July 28th, 2015 by Center Communications | No Comments » ]

janet_frank_150Center Faculty Associate Janet C. Frank was awarded a $400,000 grant by the state Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) to assess progress made statewide in setting up a system of care for older adults with serious mental illness since the passage of California’s Mental Health Services Act (Proposition 63) in 2004. Frank will also identify methods to improve progress in this area.

“Research has shown that the proportion of older adults suffering with mental illness is higher than that of the general population, but that many who could benefit are not receiving treatment,” said Frank.

Read the press release.

Environmental factors play role in obesity, researchers say

[ Posted on July 17th, 2015 by Center Communications | No Comments » ]

Joelle Wolstein, left, and Susan Babey during the seminar’s Q&A period.

Along with unhealthy food choices and a lack of access to affordable fresh produce, living in an unsafe neighborhood with a poor social structure  plays a role in obesity as residents are less likely to be physically active, UCLA researchers said July 15 in a Center Health Policy Seminar Series lecture.

Research Scientist Joelle Wolstein and Senior Research Scientist Susan Babey discussed their Center study, Obesity in California, which found one in four California adults obese in 2011-2012 and one in three adolescents overweight or obese. The authors presented national and state obesity rates and data on groups most affected by the disease: Latinos, African-Americans, American Indian and Pacific Islanders have obesity rates between 33 and 37 percent and nearly 31 percent of low-income (0-199 percent of FPL) residents were obese, according to the study.

During the Q&A session, researchers discussed the perception of neighborhood safety and its effect on physical activity, such as walking. Babey said in some cases research found “an area has very little (reported) crime but people don’t feel safe” and that the converse was also true. Also discussed: use of community and school gardens as a way of providing more access to fresh fruits and vegetables. While Babey said there are roadblocks to using school-grown produce in the cafeteria, Wolstein said school gardens can help children learn to appreciate the flavor and “get excited” about growing and eating fresh produce, “which might not be as appealing as a hamburger to them right now.”

The study, which used California Health Interview Survey data from 2001 to 2011-12, was used as a launching point for various media: L.A. Weekly used it to take a jab at the state’s healthy reputation, while Spanish-language radio program Hecho En California interviewed Wolstein about obesity among Latinos in its 10:15 a.m. broadcast July 6.

Watch the seminar here.

Radio discussion: What’s next for millenials and the ACA?

[ Posted on July 2nd, 2015 by Center Communications | No Comments » ]

Center for Health Policy Research - 101202Young Americans are enrolling for health coverage under the ACA, but at a lower rate than estimated, Minnesota Public Radio reports. Center Director Gerald Kominski said one barrier is the “young invincibles” are usually first-time health insurance buyers who are unfamiliar with navigating plans, provider networks, deductibles. “The marketplace should not be this complicated.”

Host Kerri Miller said Gallup poll results show 30 percent of 19- to 25-year-olds were uninsured before the ACA, and that figure dropped by 6 percentage points after implementation of the law. Guest Benjamin Sommers of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said some young invincibles may have “tuned out” about enrolling because of the dueling political rhetoric surrounding the law, but the ACA now provides them a health safety net and access to negotiated price rates.

Listen to the story.

Rough road for state’s new managed-care health program

[ Posted on June 30th, 2015 by Center Communications | No Comments » ]


A new managed-care health program in California for vulnerable populations has lower-than expected enrollment, after facing pushback from consumer advocates, lack of agreement between federal and state governments and health plans, lack of readiness by participating counties, and other delays, according to Center Research Scientist Kathryn Kietzman in USC’s Reporting on Health.

The program, Cal MediConnect, is a pilot managed-care program for vulnerable consumers who receive both Medicare and Medi-Cal benefits, such as low-income seniors with chronic conditions and young people with severe disabilities. Launched in 2014, the program is meant to coordinate and better deliver medical, mental and long-term health services. Nationwide, 1.5 million people qualify for the federal demonstration programs, including nearly half a million in California.

As of June 1, about 123,000 of eligible Californians have enrolled in Cal MediConnect, far below expectation, said Kietzman. In six of seven counties with active enrollment, one-third have enrolled, nearly one-quarter cancelled their enrollment within the first month or two, and 44 percent opted out of the program and stayed with their current Medicare providers.

Read the entire story.

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