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Lawmaker proposes Medi-Cal coverage of Stanford chronic-disease program

Chronic disease such as athritis and diabetes affects millions of Americans, including half of all Californians, and is responsible for more than 75 percent of the nation's health-care costs. Now, in an effort to improve health and lower California’s health costs, the state legislature is considering whether to make a self-management program for chronic-disease patients a covered benefit under Medi-Cal.

Stanford professor Kate Lorig, DrPH, and colleagues developed the program in the mid-1990s, and hundreds of thousands of patients have taken it since then. In studies, program participants had better general health and less distress, fatigue and disability than control subjects - and the program has been shown to yield $4 in savings for every $1 spent.

Assemblyman Joe Coto, D-San Jose, who has long been interested in minority health issues and recently led a taskforce on diabetes, introduced the bill on the program. Medi-Cal coverage, he said recently, would ease the "incredible drain chronic illness has on scarce resources" while improving patients' quality of life. "It's a win-win," he told me.

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