natividad hospital salinas

Supes expand health care services for illegal immigrants

By Kelly Nix, The Carmel Pine Cone | March 30-April 5, 2018

Salinas, CA – A $2 million-per-year Monterey County program to offer health care services to low-income residents who are in the country illegally will now serve more people, the county board of supervisors decided last week. In a unanimous decision March 20, supervisors increased the allowed enrollment of the Natividad Medical Center-backed program — called Esperanza Care — from 2,500 to 3,500.

The plan, which is financed by the county hospital’s “Enterprise Fund,” offers primary and specialty care, lab work and pharmacy services for those who are ineligible for treatment through the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid or Medicare. Its funding comes from Natividad’s various sources of revenue. Esperanza Care started as a pilot program in 2015 to serve 2,000 people utilizing $500,000 from the county’s general fund. In May 2017, though, supervisors expanded the program by offering more services and increasing funding to $2 million.

Last week’s decision to offer the program to 1,000 more people still leaves most illegal immigrants in the county without health care.

“There are up to 60,000 individuals in Monterey County who, unfortunately because of their documentation status, remain ineligible for [government-funded] health care services,” Natividad Medical Center director of health Elsa Jimenez told the supervisors during an overview of the program.

In August 2017, the county began contracting with third-party administrator Pacific Health Alliance for the program, and collaborates with a nonprofit for outreach and education. “These services are really going a long way to help the most critical needs of our local residents,” Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo said.

County resident Alfonzo Ramirez, who told the supervisors he’s been the United States for more than eight years, said he believes he has Type 2 diabetes but has never been treated for it.

“Thanks to this program, I will have access to get the benefits,” Ramirez said in Spanish. Fifth District Supervisor Mary Adams was impressed with the program.


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