It is often said that death and taxes are life’s only certainties, but this isn’t true. A corollary is that we will all get sick in our lifetime. And while we’ll never be able to predict when we’ll be sick or how sick we’ll be, it can be said with certainty that each of us will need to see a doctor or visit a hospital or get a medical exam at some point in our lifetimes.
There are thousands of Merced County residents who are uninsured. According to the Merced Sun-Star, our board of supervisors voted against a “plan to offer health coverage to undocumented immigrants.” This is only partially true.
The ancillary-care package the supervisors turned down was for all remaining uninsured people. While true the majority without coverage are undocumented immigrants, there are others who will suffer. Further, the plan wasn’t for comprehensive care. It was just for ancillary services, which includes X-rays, medical tests, and physical therapy.
There are about 27,000 uninsured people in Merced County, and this represents a healthcare crisis for all of us.
Given the recent headlines about healthcare, and the volley of proposals between President Donald Trump and Congress, we can’t wait for an act of Congress or for Congress to get its act together to address the needs of those 27,000 uninsured Merced County residents.
The future of healthcare is on everyone’s mind and a path forward doesn’t seem to be coming from Washington anytime soon. In fact, what we are asking for – ancillary services – has nothing to do with the state or federal government.
The Merced County Board of Supervisors had the opportunity to vote on their values but failed to do so, missing an opportunity to take a step closer to possible programs that would help cover these remaining uninsured human beings. Research has been presented throughout several months but no progress has been made.
Our elected officials have already made up their minds long before the actual vote was taken. That’s why there is no hope or progress for alternative programs to cover these people.
This is not an unreasonable ask. If other counties can do it, why can’t we?
This is unacceptable! We are talking about people’s lives, our neighbors, family members, and friends. And they do pay their share of taxes.
I know exactly how this must feel. As a former political refugee from Laos, where my father fought for the United States, even still today no recognition has honored the contribution and sacrifices of the Hmong to the United States. As a child growing up, I almost died twice because I had no access to healthcare.
Studies show that uninsured families are more likely to suffer from poor health outcomes and financial hardships. Our entire community benefits when families access health insurance. Preventing illnesses through regular checkups, or treating an illness in its early stages, ultimately saves money and decreases the burdens placed on our healthcare system. It saves lives.
Here in Merced County, we must take care of each other, especially when someone is sick and needs help. We must create a county of love and compassion; a county that welcomes immigrants and provides equal opportunity for everyone to thrive; a county that hears and responds to the pains of the community and that does not just act on special interests.
I am hopeful and confident the board of supervisors will soon find a viable solution that works without any discrimination or bias, and puts community voices and building healthy communities at the center of decision making. Blocking health care access to anyone hurts everyone. It’s not an American value I know of.
Tsia Xiong is director of Faith in the Valley. He wrote this for The Merced Sun-Star