OC Among Few Counties Still Denying Medical Care to Undocumented

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More than 80 percent of California counties now provide at least some level of non-emergency medical care to poor undocumented immigrants, but Orange County is not one of them.

Every county has a program that provides last-resort and emergency health care for low-income adults who do not qualify for coverage through MediCal or private insurance through the state's health insurance exchange, Covered California.

Until last year, only a handful of counties, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, extended this care to undocumented immigrants. Then in 2015, 39 more counties decided to provide at least some care for undocumented people.

Meanwhile, Orange County's "Medical Safety Net" program, which provides limited "medical services to protect the patient from the loss of life or limb, prevent significant disability and/or the serious deterioration of health," does not cover undocumented people.

And as the graphic below shows, Orange and San Diego counties are among the state's largest counties that do not providing care to undocumented people.

Access to Care for Undocumented Californians by County 2015

Here is a rundown from the California Health Report of how other counties expanded their last resort medical programs in 2015 to include undocumented people:

  • Fresno County supervisors accepted a deal with state legislators that allows them to commit $5.6 million toward health care for the indigent - regardless of immigration status - instead of repaying state road funds.
  • Supervisors in Sacramento County -- one of few counties that provided health care to the undocumented before the recession -- voted to restore health coverage for undocumented immigrants, which they cut from the budget in 2009.
  • The County Medical Services Program, which pools the resources of 35 rural counties to provide health services to the poor, voted to provide basic health care to the undocumented people. The board also raised the income eligibility limit to three times the federal poverty level, about $12,000 for an individual.
  • Monterey County instituted a pilot insurance service to pay for lab tests, radiology and pharmacy services for undocumented people.
  • Contra Costa County, which also cut services for the undocumented after the recession, approved a renewed program that provides preventative care like regular physician checkups, immunizations, basic laboratory and radiology services and some access to subsidies on medications.

These changes are taking place as undocumented immigrants are projected to make up half of the remaining uninsured, according to the UC Berkeley Labor Center.

Although Orange County supervisors have signaled that they have no plans to provide health care to the undocumented, state legislation is moving in a different direction.

Senate Bill 4, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed in October, expands MediCal to include all children under 19, regardless of immigration status. This means CalOptima, the county's health plan for poor and elderly people, now must also provide full MediCal benefits to low-income undocumented children who previously only qualified for limited benefits.

The agency estimates 6,800 to 13,600 of these children will be newly eligible when the changes kick in on May 1.

Finally, Senate Bill 10, proposed by state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) would seek a federal waiver allowing immigrants to purchase unsubsidized health insurance through Covered California.

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.

  • Jacki Livingston

    The simple truth here is that preventive care would save the taxpayers millions in hospital costs. My sister is a Diabetes Nurse Educator, and she often has patients who have to be in the hospital to get basic care for the disease. If she could treat them, and prevent the hospital admissions, the county would save a fortune.

  • Paul Lucas

    the way this is handled in OC is really inefficient. Ive worked at SOS medical Clinic in Costa Mesa and Lestonac medical clinic in Orange for a couple of years. the services provided to the undocumented in OC are paid for by the area hospitals to keep those patients out of the emergency rooms and provide care to them as close to their living locations as possible in order to prevent transmitting communicable diseases to the rich white folk they cut the grass, clean the house and raise their kids for. This basic level of care is provided as a safety net to the population that uses the undocumented to provide basic domestic services for. and this is where many attacks on this community are directed. If you recall a few years back when Eric Bever in Costa Mesa wanted to shuit down SOS clinic and the soup kitchen in costa mesa because they attracted ythis group of people. It was the local population that uses this group of people to do domestic work that finally put a stop to his pogrom.

    • LFOldTimer

      It’s not basic care. They get soup to nuts care. I know. I have spoken to hospital employees who are very well informed. I have even spoken with medical doctors about it. Gynecologists and obstreticians who provide treatment to illegal foreginers. If they need non-emergency surgeries they are directed through the proper avenues to get it. And expensive surgeries. They get soup to nut prenatal care and childbirth. And they don’t cut my grass, raise my kids or clean my house. And the hospitals get reimbursed by the government for the care they provide to illegal foreigners. Hospitals don’t eat the costs. Ask any accountant who works in a hospital. Otherwise many hospitals would not be able to keep their doors open. I’m concerned about all the Americans who are forced to purchase healthcare now by law. Their insurance premiums and deductibles are escalating after Obama told us that Obamacare would save the average American family $2500 in costs per year. Another lie. We should not be giving illegal foreigners free healthcare when our fellow citizens struggle to pay for their own. It’s morally wrong. We’re either a sovereign nation or we’re not. If I demanded free medical care in Mexico they’d throw me in jail.

      • Cora Bird

        Thank you for both posts, you are quite correct. I do not owe illegals from any nation anything and they do not clean my house or cut my grass either. It’s time to stand up for the real Americans in this country who pay their way and only expect fairness in return.

        • Jacki Livingston

          What makes you think that illegals don’t pay their way. They work, often in the sun for ten hours a day, for lousy wages. They pay taxes (yes, they do). They purchase products, they rent apartments, they buy cars…in short, they contribute to the economy, just like you do. The difference is, when an employer treats you badly, you have recourse, and they don’t. Hey, if y’all want to load up the buses and send them all home, have at it. But I hope you don’t mind paying ten bucks for a basket of strawberries, or busing your own restaurant tables, or cleaning your own motel room. The uncomfortable fact is that your daily life is made cheaper and easier by undocumented labor. If citizens did the farm field work, they would price fruits, veggies, wine, juice and other products out of reach for the average consumer. Seafood? Gone. Processed meat, eggs, anything like that? Nope. I’m pretty sure that the original citizens of this land wish they could turn back time and boot all of the illegals who came here from Europe, but that isn’t logical. Truth is, this nation was founded on being a refuge, a place where anyone willing to work hard could come and become a part of some American dream. Clearly, your ancestors got their part, and now you want to callously deny it to others…why? Oh, right, because they are not white. Got it. You might want to check out a film called “A Day Without a Mexican”. It is really eye opening. You owe them nothing, but you owe this nation the same level of accepting and opportunity as your illegal ancestors had. In short…grow up…ooh, and pass that ten dollar a pound bag of grapes.

          • LFOldTimer

            Some people believe in rule of law, orderly immigration policies and national sovereignty. Others don’t. I guess all of us must pick a side and support it. No other nation I know of lets foreigners come into their country illegally, steal jobs from their own citizens then provide them w/ drivers licenses, free medical care and education. No other nation is that insane. Importing poverty is never a good national policy for prosperity. In 2010 the IRS paid $4.2 billion in child tax credits to illegals using ITIN numbers. Many and probably most illegals don’t pay a dime in income taxes since their wages are paid under the table with no reporting whatsoever. According to the recent labor reports – over 90M Americans in the working age category are unemployed. Is it good policy to let illegals come into the Country and take jobs when we have that large a population of unemployed citizens? Oh, and please don’t insinuate that all illegals piick strawberries in the fields in the hot sun,. ha. Such claims are so outlandish. Our construction industry has been conquered by illegals. Ask anyone in the industry. About 30% of our prison beds in California are occupied by illegal foreigners. Each illegal inmate costs us about $55,000 a year in taxes. Is it good policy to invite more to come here illegally? This isn’t 1910. It’s 2016. We’re a completely different nation economically. We have a massive debt bubble and we accumulate more debt every years in form of spending deficits. We have a fiscal responsibility to our citizen children. Overloading America with illegal foreign indigents results in the poverty you see in Santa Ana and Los Angeles. And poverty comes with enormous social and economic costs. So everyone has a right to their opinion and beliefs. But either one sides with rule of law and order and national sovereignty or one supports illegal activity, chaos and subjugation without borders. No civilized nation allows the latter. Certainly not Mexico or the Central American nations. The pols are turning us into a 3rd world banana republic. The next question is “Why?” I’ll let you figure that out.

          • Jacki Livingston

            There’s no way that citizens of this country would do the jobs they do for that pay. And, bottom line, we don’t want to. People can whine about illegal immigration, but they cannot change it until the work dries up, and that will not happen. No one wants to pay ten bucks for strawberries. And all that hooey about the olden days being different is nonsense. It is self.serving imperialism. “Hey, yahnow that genocide stuff was fine for the white folk, but not those inconvenient brown folk, nosireebob!” .Yeah, it doesn’t play.

          • LFOldTimer

            “There’s no way that citizens of this country would do the jobs they do for that pay”
            You don’t seem to understand, Jacki. Traditionally in America people have been paid a living wage so that we can have all the basic fundamental things that promote life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There was a day when a one-income family could own a house, a car, pay the bills, have enough discretionary income to take an annual vactions and even build a little nest egg. When you allow foreigners to enter the country illegally and literally steal jobs from Americans who are forced to pay for their medical care and education – it supresses the average wage and forces working people to pay higher income taxes to finance the extra costs that come with illegal immigration. Do you put the interests of illegals over your own fellow citizens? I don’t. I am an American. And like most citizens of most nations – I support the interests of my own citizens over foreigners – particularly those who break our laws (immigration, labor laws, etc…).
            “It is self.serving imperialism.”
            No, you’re wrong. It’s about civilization. All nations protect their borders and their own populations from foreign invastions. Yes, even Mexico and the Central American nations. That’s a basic element of civilized behavior. Apparently you don’t support it.
            “Hey, yahnow that genocide stuff was fine for the white folk, but not those inconvenient brown folk, nosireebob!” .Yeah, it doesn’t play.”
            Okay. Now you’ve turned this into a racial matter. It’s not. It’s about national sovereignty. It’s a question of civilized behavior among nations. But you’ve degraded the conversation a notch with hyperbole. So now is a good time to exit. You will believe what you will believe regardless of the facts. We need to get this stuff out into the open for public discussion. Otherwise the entire issue gets distorted with misinformation. Thanks for the discussion.

          • Jacki Livingston

            I wish we had a good system for legal immigration that didn’t favors the wealthy and countries that are more white or Asian. I don’t disagree with you as much as you think. But until we boycott the companies exploiting this labor, and we stop enjoying the cheap food and products of that labor, then we will draw more and more illegal immigrants. I feel the same way about our illegal immigration policy as I do about the death penalty. Until we can do it fairly and without unfair advantage in race, wealth and corruption, then it doesn’t work at all. I have a lot of respect for people who trekked here, and work backbreaking jobs to make a better life for themselves and their families. They appreciate what this country is supposed to be about. We have way too many citizens of this country who don’t want to work, who abandon their families, who take advantage and do nothing. Look at the pathetic voting numbers. So many lazy bums who feed at the trough, they don’t respect how lucky we are to have a vote, or education and jobs. I had clients who went back to Mexico every year, risking getting caught, just to vote. They would stand for eight, ten hours, in Sun or rain, just to vote. All of the sovereign law aside, if I had a say, I would have an illegal couple, working two jobs each, keeping their kids in school, buying a house, many times their sons and daughters serve in the military. I would take them over people who sit on their lazy behinds and suck the public well dry, and who won’t serve or vote. Too many of our native born citizens take their luck and privilege for granted, a privilege that they got by luck of the birthplace lottery, something that billions of people would die for. Give me a hardworking illegal over a lazy, spoiled, self absorbed brat who thinks that this county owes them something. I don’t like illegal immigration. But I respect those willing to work hard and appreciate this country’s bounty, who just want a better life. I am sick of the citizens of this country who don’t appreciate it, not enough to even vote. That’s where I stand. We are blessed to be born here. I serve my country. Being an American is a privilege. If someone is willing to work for that…I respect that.

          • LFOldTimer

            We always have to remember something, Jacki. Immigration is not a right. It’s a privilege. That holds true across the globe. It’s like inviting someone into your home to sleep in a bed and eat the food. You would never allow people uninvited into your home, even if they were good people who were willing to do your dishes and clean your toilets. So let’s be candid. I’ve already given you all the facts. You’ve glossed over them without mention. But they are real. America is a sovereign nation like any other nation. There are rules. There have to be for civilization to survive. We are not doing Mexico or Central America any favors by being their safety value. It just disincentivizes those nations to pull themselves out of the 3rd world abyss. They don’t improve. Simultaneously, it hurts Americans because we have to pick up the slack and take care fo those illegal indigent foreigners that their own nations refuse to take responsibility for. You seem fairly intelligent. You must see that. If importing impoverished foreigners lead to national prosperity and strong societies all countries would be doing it. The fact remains that no one does it. Certainly not Mexico that vigorously protects its borders and its sovereignty against foreign invasions. So while you may respect some of the illegals you’ve known they have no respect for US sovereignty, our laws or our way of life. If we treated their nations like they treated ours they would want us thrown in jail. It’s time for all of us to acknowlege reality.

      • Paul Lucas

        No they wouldn’t. If you needed hospital in Mexico they would take you there and you would have state department rep at bedside within 24 hours.

        • LFOldTimer

          You are talking emergency care. I am talking non-emergency care. Do you know of any American women w/o Mexican dual-citizenship who traveled to Mexico to get free prenatal care up to and including the cost free delivery of their children? Illegals get non-emergency medical care in America all the time. You should know that if you worked in a free clinic in Santa Ana. Are there any free healthcare clinics in Mexico for Americans? So let’s have a reality based conversation.

  • LFOldTimer

    I guess you didn’t hear. Health insurance premiums and deductibles for Obamacare are rising 10%-20% annually for many Americans who are required by law to have health care. The Law laughingly called “The Affordable Care Act” is already unafforable for many Americans who have a very hard time paying their medical bills. Medical bankrupcy is still very real in America. Especially for those who hold a bronze plan that have extremely high deductibles. If you get sick and don’t make a lot of money you’re screwed. One reason the premiums and deductibles continues to escalate is to subsidize the large numbers of people who are getting free healthcare in our medical system (to include illegal foreigners). Is it fair to force an American to buy health insurance and then continuously raise his or her premiums and deductibles so that illegal foreigners can come here and get healthcare for free? The sensible and logical anwser to that question is ‘No, it’s not fair’. When Mexico starts providing free healthcare to undocumented Americans in Mexico I may have a change of heart. I always reserve the right to change my opinion when the facts change.