With Blue Shield Seeking a Rate Hike, A Look at Community Health Care in Venice

On the heels of a tiny increase that just went into effect on January 1st, Blue Shield this week announced yet another rate hike. Instead of last Saturday's 1% on average increase, the new plan would boost premiums by 59% for some customers. However, the average increase for its 193,000 policyholders would be around 30% after a total of three separate hikes between last October and this March, when they are scheduled to take effect.

No doubt, criticism is being thrown at the insurance provider, and that's no surprise.

Anthem Blue Cross last year tried and failed to shoot rates up by 39%, which led to congressional hearings and added fire to the national debate about health care reform. In October, the company eventually did raise rates, but on average by 14%. Another round of increases on average of 9.8% are slated for April.

With health care in the news again, this is a good time to look what's being done locally here in Los Angeles. The Venice Family Clinic is considered a model for public health care. Its 2,000 volunteers--500 of them physicians--along with 16 staff doctors serve 23,000 patients a year, 4,000 of which are homeless.

It's a free clinic and patients will always be seen, whether they can pay or not. The clinic's executive director Liz Forer says that even with $3 to $5 donations from them, they raise $400,000. Other funds come through the government and fundraising.

"In our health care reform debate there's a piece of health care that's getting lost, and that is what I call the 'care' part of the word health care," Forer told KCET in 2010. "We're getting lost in the cost and expenses, but we're forgetting about care, and I think that's where Venice Family Clinic is a role model. Focus on the person, the population we're serving--providing care, determining what are their needs, asking how can we help."

Last year, KCET's Departures Venice series interviewed Forer, producing seven videos about the clinic. Above and below are two that cover what the clinic does and preventative care.

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