Supervisors propose to expand program to provide health care to more than 20,000 uninsured residents | New

More than 20,000 uninsured residents of Santa Clara County could become eligible for primary health care services thanks to a resolution proposed by supervisors Joe Simitian and Otto Lee.

The duo want to increase eligibility for the county-run Primary Care Access Program (PCAP), which essentially acts as a safety net for uninsured residents who are not eligible for insurance through the Affordable Care Act or other state and federal programs.

“(These are) people who are uninsured for some reason,” Simitian said at a press conference Wednesday. “Maybe they have a seasonal job and just don’t have the ability to access health insurance, maybe they are undocumented, they may be that missing medium – people who earn what we thought would be a living wage for the middle class today, but now discovering our valley at high cost … they don’t have access to the help they need. “

There are currently about 80,000 uninsured residents in the county who fall into these categories, Simitian said.

Currently, approximately 8,000 of these people are eligible for PCAP. The current requirement provides services to those earning 200% of the federal poverty level – less than $ 53,000 per year for a family of four.

For families earning that much, “that leaves the family around $ 13,000 to buy food, transportation, clothing, education, emergency expenses,” said Dolores Alvarado, CEO of Community Health Partnership.

So, with so little money for everything but rent, health care tends to be on the back burner, Alvarado said.

Under the new proposal, those earning 400% of the federal poverty line, or less than $ 106,000 for a family of four, would be eligible. For an individual, they would have to earn less than $ 50,000 per year to qualify. This would more than triple the number of residents who could access services to about 30,000 residents.

“If you have two kids, the health care costs plus your child care costs, your housing costs, $ 100,000 doesn’t go very far down the valley,” Lee said. “It is therefore important to close this gap between the $ 53,000 and $ 106,000.”

Lee, along with Alvarado and Simitian, also stressed that access to quality health care is not a privilege, but rather a human right.

“It’s not charity, it’s social justice,” Alvarado said. “And most importantly, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

Expanding eligibility would require an investment of around $ 10 million, but it would save costs in the long run, as residents would not turn to the emergency room for health care, for example. example.

“OCAP revenues will help clinics continue to serve and be sustainable,” said Alvarado. “It will help families by not having to use 30-40% of their income for health care.”

She said it would also allow families to seek preventive care instead of waiting for their health to be seriously threatened.

And Simitian said it might even provide insurance for more people, who may not know they qualify for certain programs because they would eventually go to a county clinic due to the l expansion of PCAP.

Alvarado, Lee and Simitian called it a “transformational” and “innovative” proposition.

“If we can get 20,000 of those 80,000 people who are receiving uninsured health care directly, without a middleman as an insurance program, we will make a big push to reach the people who still do not have access to health care. health. they need it, ”Simitian said.

He said the county supervisory board would likely approve the proposal at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Even without a unanimous vote, the proposal will likely pass because supervisor Cindy Chavez suggested creating a similar pilot program about a month ago, so she will likely vote for it. With her, Simitian and Lee, the motion has enough votes to pass.

“The world is turned upside down when you have to ask yourself, ‘How poor do I have to be to get health care?’” Simitian said. “We’re trying to create a different world here in Santa Clara County. It might sound a little ambitious, far-reaching, but for the 20,000 people we’re hoping to include in the program, I think we can make it real. “


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Julio V. Miller

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