Starting in January, Medi-Cal recipients across the state will get unprecedented access to palliative care. In San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties, patients are already trying the new benefits.
Palliative care is tailored to relieve pain for people with serious illness. It involves a team of physicians, nurses and social workers who assess a patient’s pain needs and try to relieve symptoms. Care can involve medication management, spiritual counseling, home care and more.
While hospice care is already covered by Medi-Cal, palliative care won’t be until next year. The Health Plan of San Joaquin launched a pilot version this summer and is now covering palliative services for select beneficiaries.
Patients with congestive heart failure, chronic pulmonary disease, late stage cancer and advanced liver disease can get home nursing visits, outpatient palliative care services and 24/7 telephone access to a social worker free of cost.
“California has recognized this need - that we have this population of patients that are going to the hospital a lot, using the ER a lot,” said Maria Aguglia, director of care management and utilization management with the Health Plan of San Joaquin. “Wouldn’t it be awesome for them to have a nurse at home?”
The health plan serves about 346,000 people in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties. They partnered with the California Health Care Foundation to launch the palliative care program.