When one in six children living in the Central Valley suffer from asthma, State Sen. Melissa Hurtado knew she had to take action.
Hurtado, D-Sanger, introduced on Feb. 4 legislation to expand asthma preventive services to low-income families in California.
The bill, SB 207, would allow Medi-Cal reimbursement for asthma education and home trigger assessments that are provided by qualified, non-licensed professionals including community health workers.
The bill, which was co-sponsors by the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN), Children Now, and Regional Asthma Management and Prevention (RAMP), would increase financial support for environmental asthma trigger remediation in the home.
“With many Medi-Cal recipients residing in the Valley, this legislation is critical to providing at-risk families with the care and tools they need to reduce triggers that could lead to a life-threatening asthma attack,” said Hurtado, who represents the 14th Senate District in California, which includes cities in Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties.
“Communities in the Central Valley are facing limited access to health care and preventive care,” Hurtado said.
Hurtado, an advocate for expanding access to health care and clean water, said the Central Valley holds the highest level of asthma rates in the nation.
“California’s low-income and communities of color are more likely to have asthma and to be hospitalized or to visit the emergency room for preventable asthma related conditions,” said Sarah de Guia, executive director, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN) one of the bill’s co-sponsors.
De Guia said SB 207 would “provides families with the tools they need in a language they understand to manage their conditions so they can work and stay healthy. It will reduce health care costs and result in healthier communities.”
“Asthma is the most common chronic disease afflicting kids, affecting roughly 1.2 million of California’s children,” said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now.
Lempert said asthma is “a leading factor for children missing school, and when it’s not managed effectively, kids can end up in the emergency room, which takes a toll on children and their families, and is costly for the state.
According to Lempert , nearly 90 percent of all pediatric asthma emergency department visits are by children in Medi-Cal compared to only 50 percent back in 2012.
“This legislation makes strong investments in preventive care and asthma education for kids in Medi-Cal so kids can have better outcomes and more efficient care,” Lempert said.
“There is robust evidence showing that asthma education and in-home assessments improve the lives of people with asthma and reduce costly visits to the emergency room,” said Anne Kelsey Lamb, director of the Regional Asthma Management and Prevention (RAMP). “This legislation will make sure that these services are available to the people who need these services the most.”
According to health advocates, more than 265,000 Californians enrolled in Medi-Cal have poorly controlled asthma and have reported an emergency room or urgent care visit for it.
“A home visit can help patients and health care providers identify the asthma triggers, find ways of avoiding those triggers and allow the patients to be active participants in their own care,” said Heidi He, nurse practitioner and nursing program professor and member of the Asthma Coalition of Kern County. “Patients with poorly controlled asthma will benefit significantly from asthma education home visits and home trigger environmental assessments.”
“Managing asthma extends far beyond medication, but addressing the social and environmental factors that impact asthma is very challenging for numerous reasons,” said Christine Mayor, pediatric nurse practitioner of Zuckerberg San Francisco General. “The hours of care our asthma educators provide is just as important as the time patients spend with me in the clinic. Working together, we have seen better results and lasting outcomes for our asthma patients.”