Leyva Bill Would Give Low Income Californians Free Access to Medical Records

SB 575 Helps Low Income Residents Receive Vital Public Services

Friday, February 17, 2017

SACRAMENTO – In an effort to help low income Californians receive potentially life-saving safety net services, Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) today introduced legislation to ensure that residents can obtain free access to their medical records when applying for public benefit programs.

Specifically, SB 575 would allow Californians to receive a copy of their medical records at no cost when applying to public benefit programs, including Medi-Cal, Supplemental Security Income / State Supplementary Program for the Aged, Blind, and Disabled (SSI / SSP), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS), California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKS), CalFresh, and veterans benefits.  Currently, low income Californians only have access to free medical records for appeals to Medi-Cal, SSI / SSP and SSDI, but not for the initial application to those programs.

“Low income seniors, veterans and other Californians are among the most vulnerable residents in our state.  Applying for safety net services is a complicated process that requires careful review of medical records to make a determination of eligibility,” Senator Leyva said. “Some providers charge high amounts for patients to receive copies of their own medical records, which then forces low income Californians to spend needed cash to even apply for public benefits.  By expanding free access to medical records for this vulnerable population, SB 575 will help to protect the health and wellbeing of low income Californians that may be prevented from applying for these benefits to which they are rightfully entitled.”

As an example, documenting medical disability may be crucial to obtaining food assistance. Beginning January 1, 2018, adults under age 50 without children will have their CalFresh cut off after a limited time if they are not working, unless the individual has a medical condition that limits their ability to meet work requirements. Qualified low income applicants who cannot pay to access their medical records may lose out on public benefits that can help them survive.

Following today’s introduction, the Senate Rules Committee will soon assign SB 575 to the appropriate policy committee(s).