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Western Center Roundup – August 2023

Commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the March on Washington, Black August, and Black Philanthropy Month

This month, we commemorated the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington, led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other giants of the civil rights movement. The march and King’s remarks that day are lodged in Americans’ collective memory as a turning point in the struggle for civil rights. Last Saturday, more than half a century later, a multiracial coalition of thousands of people gathered once again on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to demand social, racial, and economic justice and decry the people and systems that are trying to undo the progress we’ve made over the past 60 years. We recognize that all of our struggles are interconnected, and that liberation requires all of us to play a role in fighting oppression. Black August is a commemoration of the fallen freedom fighters of the Black Liberation Movement, a call for the release of political prisoners, a condemnation of the conditions in prisons, and a continued fight for Black liberation. This month is also Black Philanthropy Month, founded by Dr. Jackie Bouvier Copeland in 2011, as a global celebration and intentional campaign to elevate giving and funding equity. The theme of this year is “Love in Action,” inspired by the writings of bell hooks on love as a driver of true social change. She wrote, “But love is really more of an interactive process. It’s about what we do, not just what we feel. It’s a verb, not a noun.” Our development team continues to intentionally uplift the practice of putting love into action by applying community-centric fundraising principles in their work with the support and guidance of our philanthropy consultant, April Walker from Philanthropy for the People

New Settlement: Affirming Access to Charity Care

Earlier this month, we announced our landmark settlement in a charity care case against Santa Clara Valley Healthcare with co-counsel Consumer Law Center, Inc., addressing the county’s failure to adequately inform patients with low and no incomes of the hospital’s charity care and discount payment policies. As a result, the County has updated their notices on how patients can qualify for free and discounted payments and expanded the number of languages notices are available in. An estimated 43,000 former patients of Santa Clara Valley Healthcare have received notice of possible billing corrections and refunds. “Medical debt, particularly hospital debt, burdens many Californians and forces them to forgo medically necessary care and other life necessities. We hope this lawsuit will give thousands of Santa Clara residents some financial relief,” said Helen Tran, Senior Attorney with the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

News coverage of the settlement can be viewed in Kaiser Health News and KTVU.


Learn More

9/19: Pasa La Voz and Meet the Advocates – Medi-Cal Renewals

For this next Meet the Advocates, we’re excited to partner with the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California. Their “Pasa La Voz” project aims to spread awareness and education about health, and to provide community resources to Latinx families and individuals in a culturally and community-informed manner. On Tuesday, September 19th from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM, join Western Center senior attorneys David Kane and Helen Tran and Ana Tutila, a Promotora in Orange County with the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California as they discuss the importance of Medi-Cal renewals for California’s health and racial equity goals – and the current challenges facing those renewing their coverage. Millions of Californians who depend on Medi-Cal are going through the renewal process for the first time since before the start of the pandemic. We’ll be diving into the work advocates and community-based organizations are doing to support people enrolled in Medi-Cal to keep their coverage, highlighting on-the-ground challenges enrollees are facing, and discussing the policy changes needed to improve this process.


PRESS RELEASE: Settlement Requires CA to Provide Access to Care for Medi-Cal Applicants During Lengthy Eligibility Verification Process


LOS ANGELES, CA — Hundreds of thousands of Californians will have speedier access to health care thanks to a settlement in a seven-year lawsuit requiring California’s Department of Health Care Services to allow eligible Medi-Cal applicants to receive health coverage right away, subject to later verification of their declared income.

The lawsuit, filed in 2014, sought to end the state’s practice of leaving hundreds of thousands of eligible low-­‐income applicants to wait for months without the health care they desperately needed. One of the plaintiffs, Frances Rivera, lost her adult son to a treatable condition while he waited for the state to approve his Medi-Cal application. Shortly after he died—and more than six months after he first applied—Rivera received a letter stating her son qualified for Medi-­Cal, and that his coverage would apply retroactively.

When the lawsuit was first filed, there was a backlog of more than 350,000 Medi-Cal applicants who had been waiting significantly longer than was allowed under state and federal mandates. Cancer patients were unable to see oncologists.  People with heart conditions were unable to see cardiologists. Without access to arthritis medication, one woman had to go on disability because she could no longer walk. Women with high-risk pregnancies went without the critical care they needed to keep themselves and their babies safe.

“People’s lives are in the balance—our clients knew that firsthand,” said Richard Rothschild, Director of Litigation for Western Center on Law & Poverty.

The settlement, which was finalized on May 10th, ensures applicants who meet eligibility criteria have health coverage as soon as they apply, while verification and other processing are being completed.

“This victory is especially important now, with low-income essential workers and their families bearing the brunt of the pandemic’s health burdens,” said Lynn Kersey, Executive Director of Maternal and Child Health Access, whose organization was a plaintiff in the case.

Plaintiffs were represented by Bay Area Legal Aid, Central California Legal Services, Multiforum Advocacy Solutions, Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, the National Health Law Program, and Western Center on Law & Poverty.

“Some 84% of Medi-Call applicants are in households with low-wage workers whose jobs don’t provide health insurance for them or their children,” said Lucy Quacinella of Multiforum Advocacy Solutions, lead counsel for the plaintiffs. “This settlement will prevent suffering and help address significant racial disparities in health.”

As the pandemic tore through Los Angeles’ low-income neighborhoods, a lack of access to healthcare led to extraordinarily high levels of serious illness and death—much higher than in wealthier areas.

“Medi-Cal is supposed to be the great healthcare equalizer,” said Neighborhood Legal Services’ Jackie Dai. “This settlement moves us a little closer to that promise.”

Contact: Courtney McKinney, cmckinney[at]


The mission of Bay Area Legal Aid is to provide meaningful access to the civil justice system through quality legal assistance regardless of a client’s location, language or disability.

Central California Legal Services (CCLS), established in 1966, provides free civil legal services to eligible low-income residents in Fresno, Tulare, Merced, Kings, Tuolumne, and Mariposa Counties. In partnership with the statewide Health Consumer Alliance, CCLS also serves Madera, San Luis Obispo, Stanislaus, Monterey and San Benito County residents with their healthcare access concerns.  CCLS seeks to advance justice through community education and legal service. We endeavor to empower low-income communities to fight social injustice and assert their rights as individuals, groups, and communities.   We commit to doing high-quality work promoting systemic change while serving individual clients with respect and compassion.

Lucy Quacinella is an attorney in private practice and the Principal of Multiforum Advocacy Solutions. In addition to impact litigation on health care issues, MAS provides research, analysis, and technical assistance to community-based organizations and assists with legislative and administrative advocacy. Through the Fulbright program, she has collaborated with local human rights advocates in Namibia, Rwanda, and Italy.

Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County (NLSLA) is a steadfast advocate for individuals, families, and communities throughout Los Angeles County.   Each year NLSLA provides free assistance to more than 100,000 people through innovative projects that address the most critical needs of people living in poverty. Through a combination of individual representation, high impact litigation and public policy advocacy, NLSLA combats the immediate and long-lasting effects of poverty and expands access to health, opportunity, and justice in Los Angeles’ diverse neighborhoods.

The National Health Law Program, founded in 1969, protects and advances health rights of low-income and underserved individuals and families. We advocate, educate, and litigate at the federal and state levels to advance health and civil rights in the U.S.

Western Center on Law & Poverty fights for justice and system-wide change to secure housing, health care, racial justice, and a strong safety net for Californians with low incomes. Western Center attains real-world, policy solutions for clients through litigation, legislative and policy advocacy, and technical assistance and legal support for the state’s legal aid programs. Western Center is California’s oldest and largest legal services support center.