Blue Cross of California receives $1.5 million grant for rural telemedicine programme

Thousand Oaks 11 January 1999 The children of seasonal and migrant farm workers as well as the Native Americans belong to communities which always have been medically underserved. Their limited access to health care at last seems to be in for some major improvements. The Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board (MRMIB) has awarded the substantial funding of $1.5 million to the Blue Cross of California (BCC) for the establishment of a series of projects to enhance the quality of care for this difficult to reach part of the population.

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The children of seasonal and migrant farm workers as well as the Native Americans belong to communities which always have been medically underserved. Their limited access to health care at last seems to be in for some major improvements. The Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board (MRMIB) has awarded the substantial funding of $1.5 million to the Blue Cross of California (BCC) for the establishment of a series of projects to enhance the quality of care for this difficult to reach part of the population.

The recent grant already constitutes an additional funding to the $1.8 million award, which the Blue Cross of California received last October out of the hands of the MRMIB managers, to set up a specific telemedicine programme for children in rural communities. The MRMIB state agency is responsible for the administration of the Healthy Families Programme. This initiative provides cost-effective health care, such as a regular dental and vision coverage for the children of medium-income working people.

The awarded funds will enable the Blue Cross of California to start up twenty projects. Future plans include the purchase of medical vans for mobile care as well as the recruitment of supplementary health care providers. This will allow the BCC to expand with longer opening hours the time-tables of those clinics which are frequently visited by farm workers, Native Americans, and their relatives. Henceforth, these facilities will be accessible in the evenings and during the weekend.

Three Indian clinics will benefit for 22 percent of the total funding via the California Rural Indian Health Board, whereas 38 percent of the grant will be dedicated to hospitals which belong to the Central Valley Health Network, a series of health care facilities in the San Joaquin Valley. Since a long time, the Blue Cross of California has been active in the field of quality care for underserved communities. In 1998, the BCC received a major contract for Healthy Families, a comprehensive health plan in which all 58 Californian counties take part.

Next to this, the organization's Medi-Cal managed care programmes already are available in the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Clara and Stanislaus. The Blue Cross of California unites approximately 4.6 million medical members as a subsidiary of WellPoint Health Networks Inc., which constitutes one of the United States' largest publicly traded managed care companies.


Leslie Versweyveld

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