A VA press release details the program’s expansion.

Under the updated eligibility requirements, a Veteran is eligible for the Veterans Choice Program if he or she is enrolled in the VA health care system and meets at least one of the following criteria: 

  • Told by his or her local VA medical facility that they will not be able to schedule an appointment for care within 30 days of the date the Veteran’s physician determines he/she needs to be seen or within 30 days of the date the Veteran wishes to be seen if there is no specific date from his or her physician;
  • Lives more than 40 miles driving distance from the closest VA medical facility with a full-time primary care physician;
  • Needs to travel by air, boat or ferry to the VA medical facility closest to his/her home;
  • Faces an unusual or excessive burden in traveling to the closest VA medical facility based on geographic challenges, environmental factors, a medical condition, the nature or simplicity or frequency of the care needed and whether an attendant is needed. Staff at the Veteran’s local VA medical facility will work with him or her to determine if the Veteran  is eligible for any of these reasons; or
  • Lives in a State or Territory without a full-service VA medical facility which includes: Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire (Note: this excludes New Hampshire Veterans who live within 20 miles of the White River Junction VAMC) and the United States Territories (excluding Puerto Rico, which has a full service VA medical facility).


A Sacramento Bee article details the struggle to find physicians near your home or secure transportation to see physicians in major cities for patients in rural Northern California.


For the first time, a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital is opening a clinic for transgender patients.

Transgender veterans will be able to receive primary care, hormonal therapy, mental health care and other services at The Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, starting this month.

Dr. Megan McNamara, a primary care and women’s health doctor who began working with transgender patients a couple of years ago, will head up the clinic. Her team will be made up of other VA staffers including a nurse, psychologist and social worker.

“As far as we know, this is the first dedicated transgender clinic” in the Veterans Affairs medical system, McNamara said in a statement provided by the medical center.

The clinic ribbon-cutting ceremony today marks a move forward for the VA medical system, Evan Young, president of the Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA), told CBS News.

“The VA has been stepping up their game,” Young said.

All of the providers in the new clinic have a special interest in transgender health care and say they will create a welcoming environment for transgender veterans seeking care, according to the medical center.

The clinic will handle an initial enrollment of 20 transgender veterans, ages 21 to 75, for a half-day on Thursdays each month.

McNamara said studies show that the number of transgender veterans seeking services at the VA is five times higher than it is in the non-veteran population.

“I feel there are a lot of transgender patients in the veteran population who haven’t been able to find the care they need,” she said. “I really want to be able to provide comprehensive, one-stop care for those patients in a welcoming environment.”

Young said there are an estimated 134,000 veterans who are transgender and 15,500 transgender service personnel are believed to be on active duty.

The medical center said it will serve only transgender veterans — active-duty military personnel receive health care through a different system under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Defense.

There are specific health care concerns for transgender veterans, including mental health care and hormone level care, that require a specialist, said Young.

“You should have somebody who is trained and understands what those levels are,” Young said. “Patients need a health care provider who is sensitive and has the actual clinical knowledge and experience to treat transgender patients.”

California Healthcare Foundation commissioned a report on access to Medi-Cal managed care services in rural and frontier areas.  LSNC-Health’s managing attorney Liza Thantranon was a key informant.  The report details the access-related problems for the nearly 400,000 rural and frontier residents unable to fully gain access to health care.  The report highlights the shortage of primary care and specialty doctors, and long distances required to seek care.

Read the full report here.

The Kaiser Family Foundation recently released an issue brief, “Health and Access to Care and Coverage for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Individuals in the U.S.” The brief provides a current overview of LGBT health status, coverage, and access in this country.  It also reviews the implications of the ACA, the overturning of Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), and other recent policy developments for LGBT individuals and their families.

Specifically, the brief discusses

  • challenges and barriers LGBT individuals often face when accessing health services, such as stigma, discrimination, violence, denial of care because of sexual orientation status or gender identity and the provision of substandard care;
  • chronic health disparities among certain groups within the LGBT community; and
  • changes in the legal and policy landscape to increase access to health care and health insurance coverage for LGBT communities.

The entire Kaiser brief can also be found here.

The Office of the Patient Advocate (OPA) released its 2014 health plan report cards today.  The report cards allow consumers to compare health plans based on a simplified rating system.

The Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) admits that over 600,000 applications are pending in the Medi-Cal backlog.  A handful of applications in the backlog have been waiting for approval since October 2013.  If you need health care now, you should call your local county welfare department and request that your Medi-Cal application is expedited due to medical need.   The county should pull your application from the backlog and process it immediately.

Beginning Thursday, May 15, Covered California will launch a limited-time special-enrollment period for people who have COBRA health insurance and would like to switch to an exchange plan (Covered CA).

People who have health coverage through COBRA (the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) will be eligible to shop for and buy coverage through Covered California fromMay 15 through July 15, 2014. The two-month window mirrors a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ruling announced May 2 that allows COBRA enrollees to buy plans through the federal exchange until July 1.

This temporary special enrollment period is in addition to the remaining and continuing Special Enrollment Periods.

As of May 1, 2014, certain diagnostic, preventive and restorative adult dental benefits have been restored, as will some endodontic and prosthodontic procedures.

A list of restored adult dental benefits are available in this Denti-Cal Bulletin.  Full descriptions of these codes can be found in the Manual of Criteria here.  Please note that a new Manual of Criteria will be effective starting June 1, 2014.

California spent $500,000 on a website redesign in hopes that more veterans will apply and receive the benefits they deserve.  If you are a veteran or working with veterans, please visit the CalVet website.