Building on recent victories for the #Health4All movement throughout California and at the county levels, yesterday the Monterey Board of Supervisors voted on a 5-0 vote to authorize a new $500,000 pilot program to extend limited specialty health care services to the remaining uninsured, including undocumented Monterey residents. The program will cover the cost of specified pharmacy, laboratory, and radiology services for eligible uninsured residents.
Although the Monterey pilot program is a modest start, it’s a powerful signal that we can no longer exclude entire segments of our community from our health care system—and that counties are well positioned to ensure a coherent system of care that includes primary, preventive and specialty care on the front end rather than expensive emergency and episodic care when it may be too late for many patients.
Monterey joins 46 other counties in extending some health benefits to broader set of Californians, including undocumented immigrants who are left out of coverage options under the Affordable Care Act.
Monterey’s actions continue a string of victories for the #Health4All movement over the year, including the expansion of Medi-Cal to all income-eligible children regardless of immigration status starting in May 2016, and the passage last week of SB4(Lara), to help streamline enrollment for these children. Now pending on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk, SB4 earned bipartisan votes in both the California Senate and Assembly, with unanimous Democratic support but also key Republican votes as well.
Earlier this year, Sacramento County reinstated some indigent care services to undocumented residents after eliminating them in 2009–a move Contra Costa is expected to follow in the next month. Also recently, the County Medical Services Program, a 35-county consortium of small and rural counties, voted to extend a primary care benefit to the remaining uninsured, including the undocumented. Monterey County is the first individual county to newly extend health benefits to this population. Monterey’s pilot demonstrates that each county can take meaningful steps to build a health care system that is responsive to the needs of all members of the community (for details see Health Access’ recent report on county safety net programs)—providing a bridge to a statewide solution.
The program will provide much needed help on a first-come, first served basis or until the funding run out to eligible uninsured Monterey patients who stand in need of quality, comprehensive, representing approximately. According to local estimates there are 30,000-50,000 Monterey residents who are uninsured and not eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The pilot program is designed to fill gaps in treatment provided by local Federally Qualified Health Centers so that patients may fully benefit from the treatment that is provided in such settings.
At the hearing community groups that are part of the COPA coalition (Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action), along with Health Access, urged County officials to go further to build a system of comprehensive care and, ideally, coverage for the remaining uninsured.
To this end, health, immigrant, and community advocates urge the Governor’s signing of SB4 (Lara) this year, and next year the advancement and passage of SB10 (Lara), pending legislation to cover all income-eligible adults in Medi-Cal, and allow all to buy insurance in Covered California.
For further details and data, see the Board Report: https://monterey.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=4013861&GUID=5681CDA4-9792-43E5-BB97-F4ED46109FE4