After Merced County board of supervisors voted against a proposed healthcare program in the county that would have provided access to healthcare services to all residents, regardless of immigration status, health advocates and community members remain very hopeful.
“Local health advocates, residents and, Merced Building Healthy Communities remain committed to finding a solution,” said Mark Chalico, communications specialist with Building Healthy Communities Merced, a coalition of non-profits and community-based organizations dedicated to increasing healthcare access to vulnerable and underserved communities in Merced County.
The proposed healthcare program would have allowed access to health services to the undocumented immigrant population living in the county.
“We are continuing to meet with County Supervisors, county staff, and healthcare stakeholders to develop a program that everyone can agree on and that will ultimately save the lives of many Merced County residents, regardless of their immigration status,” Chalico said.
The supervisors’ 3-2 vote on Oct. 17 against the proposal came after two years of community meetings and hearings to develop a path to create a healthcare program accessible to all county residents.
The plan for the healthcare program, which would have cost the county $700,000 for a year of coverage, was supported by supervisors Rodrigo Espinoza and Lee Lor, who represent district 1 and district 2 in Merced County.
“I will continue to be a champion for my constituents and for Merced County,” said Espinoza. “I have heard the outcry from community residents loud and clear and will partner with our local advocates and community members to find a way to bring healthcare to all Merced County residents.”
According to Building Healthy Communities Merced, the number of remaining uninsured individuals under the age of 65 in Merced County is estimated to be 27,000.
Currently, undocumented adults cannot access any healthcare services through the county.
Under the Affordable Care Act, undocumented immigrants are not allowed to purchase healthcare plans through Covered California, the state’s insurance market place.
“In Merced County, we take care of one another and while a healthcare program was not approved this time – we will be back,” said Lupe Delgado, Prevention Action Team Coalition Member. “Our commitment is to our community and we will find a path forward to meeting the needs of all Merced residents, regardless of immigration status. We will not stop.”
Health advocates said the healthcare program would give the remaining uninsured access to important services such as x-rays, lab testing, and medical equipment such as wheelchairs.
“The community is greatly disheartened by the County Board decision not to move forward with a healthcare program for all Merced residents,” said Floripes Dzib, Merced County Resident. “The program sought to increase healthcare access to thousands of community members and ultimately save lives,”
County health advocates said with no solutions coming anytime soon from Federal or State government, it is up to the county take care of its own residents and remain committed to identifying a solution after the supervisors’ vote.
“We remain very hopeful.” Chalico said.