Monterey County health, community leaders tout new Medi-Cal expansion – Monterey Herald
SALINAS — At a media gathering at Natividad hospital on Thursday, the newly expanded Medi-Cal program for older adults was lauded by Monterey County health and community leaders who are encouraging all those eligible to sign up.
Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid health care program, which pays for a variety of medical services for children and adults with limited income and resources, and is supported by federal and state taxes.
The program expanded on May 1 to include all residents over the age of 50 who are eligible, regardless of immigration status. The change impacts tens of thousands of residents throughout the state and locally. More than 100,000 adults in Monterey County are estimated to be receiving either full- or restricted-scope Medi-Cal and while many who are eligible have been transitioned to full-scope coverage, there may be thousands still eligible.
“Something like this has never been accomplished anywhere else in our nation,” said Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo. “It will not only make a propelling difference in the lives of thousands of low-income families and seniors throughout Monterey County, but throughout the great state of California.”
The Older Adult Expansion is modeled after the Young Adult Expansion, which provides full-scope Medi-Cal to young adults 19 to 25 years of age.
The expansion is a health lifeline for disadvantaged communities. Health advocates and workers have been going throughout the Monterey County community to let those eligible know about this important change, but more work still needs to be done.
Full-scope Medi-Cal coverage includes doctor visits, emergency care, outpatient services, hospital care, dental, vision, hearing, mental health care, medications, substance use disorder services and more.
Alejo said that many of the residents the program will impact are those who have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and this law is expected to benefit anywhere from 185,000 to 235,000 low-income residents in California.
The state has made great strides in expanding health care coverage for our most vulnerable, said Alejo.
“Supervisor (Chris) Lopez and I have already introduced a referral for Monterey County to devise a plan to educate and provide outreach to all eligible undocumented Monterey County residents to enroll in Medi-Cal that will utilize traditional social media in English, Spanish and indigenous languages and collaborating with community organizations, health care partners, our VIDA program and 211 enrollment services,” said Alejo. “We are excited to take on this challenge and aim to enroll every eligible Monterey County resident. Residents can apply in person, by mail, or online at dhcs.ca.gov.”
Former Monterey County Supervisor and current Natividad board member Simon Salinas said that one of the best ways to cut down on the costs of running the hospital is to provide primary care to those who need it before they get too sick and come to the emergency room, which is more expensive.
Preventative care access is the most important type of health care that will change lives, said Lopez.
“Thanks to the state legislature and the governor for taking yet another bold health care policy move to expand Medi-Cal coverage to those age 50 to 64 without proper documentation status,” said Monterey County Health Department program manager Krista Hanni. “These members of our community are vital to the economic viability of our county and it is only right and just to ensure that they have access to health care coverage and services — really a basic human right.”
Hanni stated that Monterey County continues to have a high percentage of residents without access to health insurance.
“The 2022 County Health Rankings published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation indicates that 12% of our residents remain uninsured compared to 9% for California. We’re going to help close that gap with this new move to offer health care to those who are 50 and over,” said Hanni. “Our county health system will continue to meet the needs of those not eligible for health insurance through our (Monterey County) Board of Supervisors-approved Esperanza Care program making primary care, some specialty and pharmacy services, available to help individuals improve their well- being.”
Hanni said that as a public health system, the Health Department needs to continue to work with community members, local elected officials and other stakeholders on system and policy change.
“So that we can assure all of our neighborhoods can help create those opportunities for residents to achieve their fullest, unique potential by ensuring there is access to green space, safe streets, healthy food options, safe housing, education, employment opportunities and health care .”
Other local government, social services, health and labor representatives present included Salinas Mayor Kimbley Craig, Salinas Councilman Orlando Osornio, Health Department Director Elsa Jimenez and Social Services Program Manager Annette Gallegos.
For more information, call Natividad at 831-755-4165 or visit natividad.com/resources then scroll down to Monterey County Cares and click “Learn More,” or call the Medi-Cal program at 877-410-8823 or visit the Medi -Cal website at benefitscal.com.