Contra Costa CARES, a new system of organized health care, could expand health care coverage to thousands of undocumented and low-income Contra Costa County residents. The program could revolutionize how the County’s large undocumented population receives health care, if it earns the approval of the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors.
“The greater population that is covered under health care, the better everyone's public health will be,” says Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioia.
Gioia has been helping to lead the push in support of Contra Costa CARES, along with numerous community groups, the Contra Costa Community Clinic Consortium, the Contra Costa Health Services Agency, and the Hospital Council of Northern & Central California.
The program would allow low-income residents, who are not eligible for full-scope health care under Covered California or Medi-Cal, to access primary health care ranging from immunizations, to Planned Parenthood services, to pharmaceutical services, and more.
Uninsured residents of Contra Costa County would receive primary health care at their local community clinics, such as the North Richmond Center for Health and the Lifelong Brookside Community Health Center in San Pablo. The estimated 19,000 uninsured individuals in Contra Costa County would be eligible for the program, according to Supervisor Gioia’s office.
Liydia Arizmendi, a Contra Costa County resident, is one of the nearly 19,000 individuals who would benefit from the program. She lives with diabetes and has been waiting to see a doctor for over a year, because, as an undocumented immigrant, she is ineligible for health care under Covered California and Medi-Cal.
“With my condition, I’ve been in pain for a while, but I have to wait to see a doctor,” Arizmendi said through a translator. “The out-of-pocket costs are too much, so I can’t see a doctor until I’m already sick.”
It’s clear how Contra Costa CARES would benefit thousands across the county, but still uncertain is how the program would sustain itself financially. Supervisor Gioia estimates that the program will cost around $1 million to get up and running, a cost that will be split among the various partners involved in the program.
From there, it is estimated that the program will cost a little over $3.3 million during the first year, if 10,000 residents enroll in the program, an expense the County and Contra Costa CARES partners have yet to work out.
The Contra Costa Board of Supervisors is scheduled to discuss the issue in late September. If approved, the program could go into effect by the end of the month.
Photo: Healthy Richmond