Undocumented and Unaccounted For
As county braces for thousands of soon-to-be insured, illegal immigrants remain uncovered.
Thursday, January 17, 2013
With about 55,000 low-to-moderate income Monterey County residents expected to qualify for expanded insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, the safety net is stretching thin.
If all of those who become eligible for coverage through Obamacare actually go to the doctor, there won’t be enough doctors, according to an analysis by CSU Monterey Bay faculty and students conducted for the county Health Department. The final report is expected by April 1, after five public listening sessions wrap up next week.
Existing safety-net facilities and physicians could accommodate only 42 percent of the newly insured countywide, the study shows. “If more than that show up, we hit capacity,” says study co-author Ignacio Navarro, a CSUMB assistant professor of health.
Expanded coverage for the poor still accounts for only a fraction of the county’s 90,000 uninsured. About a third of them won’t be eligible for Medi-Cal or federally subsidized exchanges because they’re undocumented immigrants, the study shows.
County health providers don’t know how many undocumented immigrants already rely on safety-net services.
“We don’t want to ask,” County Director of Health Ray Bullick says. That’s because any survey questions about status could deter people from seeking care.
The study projects a need for 10 additional doctors at clinics and safety-net hospitals by 2014 if even a fraction of the newly insured choose to access health care. Bullick says the task is fairly extreme: “We’ve got to get some things done here.”