Monterey County

Monterey County supports new program to help uninsured

Monterey County supervisors said Tuesday everyone deserves health care coverage, including undocumented immigrants.

The county is moving ahead with a pilot program designed to expand medical services to those who currently don't have health insurance, such as appointments and prescriptions.

Alfonso Hernandez says he stands to benefit.

"I'm sick with diabetes, and I have no way of buying my medicine," Hernandez said. "My job doesn't pay enough to cover it."

Hernandez is also part of the non-profit COPA, which worked with the health department to make the program possible.

On Tuesday, supervisors agreed to use $500,000 from the county's backup fund, until that money runs out. Supervisors still want a finalized plan within the next two to three weeks.

"(We) feel that this kind of program is so important that we are willing to invest money, even in times when money is tight," Supervisor Jane Parker said.

But not everyone agrees that's where the money should be spent, or that the county should spend it at all. One man took the podium saying, "Let Mexico pay for it."

Supporters say it will save money in the long run, giving the example that treating a stroke is more expensive than preventing it.

The idea is to keep people out of the ER, because if they can't pay for it, taxpayers are forced to foot the bill.

"I'm hopeful we can take those dollars that are are currently being spent on emergency room coverage, intensive care units, hospital stays, rehabilitation, and move that into the preventative arena," Monterey County Director of Health Services Raymond Bullick said. "And it's actually going to save money, and more importantly, it's going to improve the quality of life for these patients."

Monterey County isn't alone in taking this step. More and more counties are implementing similar programs across the state.

Both Blue Shield and Walgreens are working with the county to partner. The county hopes to start coverage for those who qualify by November.

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