Primary care for undocumented to begin next month
on November 6, 2015
Rosa Arriaga suffers from arthritis and asthma, as well as pain in her neck, hands and knee. She used to have frequent medical checkups to control these conditions, but then her health plan changed and Doctors Medical Center closed.
At the age of 72, she qualifies for reduced cost for emergency attention, but she has stopped seeking it because she can’t afford even the $40 fee.
In June, California became the first state in the nation to vote in favor of allowing undocumented immigrants to buy Medi-Cal health insurance, but budget constraints ended that program.
On Tuesday, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors approved the appropriation of $500,000 to the Contra Costa Cares pilot health program. The program, designed to provide primary health coverage to low-income, uninsured and undocumented people, was contingent on the local hospitals matching the county’s appropriated funds.
Local hospitals also contributed $500,000 to establish Contra Costa CARES.
“[The program] reduces total costs in our healthcare system. When people get more preventative care, rather than emergency room care, it’s less expensive, and it improves everybody’s public health. The more people that are healthy, that protects the larger community,” said Supervisor John Gioia.
Arriaga, who has lived in Richmond 24 years, is ready to access affordable medical attention.
“For me, it would be the best,” Arriaga said in Spanish. “I can’t work because of my age. Maybe if I had a job, I could pay.”
The launch date is set for December 1, About 3,000 people are expected to be served Participants will have access to primary care visits, basic radiology and laboratory services and reduced pharmacy costs.
“That’s a start,” said Richmond resident Edith Pastrano, who attended the county hearing when the program was approved.
The board also authorized the Contra Costa Health Plan to issue enrollment cards to the program’s potential participants.
Supervisor Mary Piepho supported the action in September, but did not want the county seal on the enrollment card to present false hope to enrollees that this was an ongoing program.
There are more than 2.4 million undocumented immigrants across California, and an estimated half-million live in the Bay Area, according to the Pew Research Center. In Contra Costa County, the undocumented population is 77,500.
“More people will get regular health care, so it’s gonna help close a gap in a population that does not have regular health care, and we’re happy to close that gap,” Gioia said.
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