Author: Maria Yefimova, CSA Young Professionals
Healthcare is a human right.
Some might not agree with this statement. But most of us have experienced difficulties finding a good doctor, unpleasantness of going to the hospital, and paying for expensive health insurance. Imagine what it is like for CSA clients, many of whom lack resources — whether it is money, time, or even just transportation. Some do not have the ability to advocate for themselves in getting the healthcare they need due to a language barrier.
I spoke with Ramon Robles, CSA case manager for homeless services, who connects clients with healthcare resources. His stories shed light on the difficulties low income and unsheltered residents of Mountain View and Los Altos face in navigating our confusing healthcare system.
One of his roles is to help clients sign up for MediCal. MediCal is California’s health insurance program for children and adults with limited income that is funded by our taxes. You qualify for it if your household annual income is at or below 138% poverty level (for example, in 2023 two adults making $27,214 a year).
In 2021 Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit health policy organization, found that 47% of Californians in 2020 get their insurance from their employer. However, many small businesses — who often employ CSA clients — do not offer this benefit. A quarter of Californians get access to medical care through MediCal, while 7% do not have any health insurance at all.
That is true for CSA clients. Some of them do not qualify for any insurance because of their undocumented status. Many do not understand English well enough to sign up for MediCal. It is Ramon’s job to help them navigate this complicated process with mounds of paperwork to prove their eligibility.
But even MediCal is not a panacea. Ramon shared that one client with cancer had to go to the Emergency Room to get his chemotherapy treatment. His MediCal plan only covered the cost of emergency but not oncology care. Imagine waiting for hours in an overcrowded ER for lifesaving treatment that can be easily provided in a specialized — and quiet — clinic specifically for cancer patients.
Another client got hit by a car while biking home from a late shift at a restaurant. He was taken by ambulance to a large hospital that provides trauma care. When he was discharged, he needed aftercare to make sure his bones were healed, and he could get back to work. But he could not access the clinic affiliated with this hospital. The doctors did not accept MediCal insurance. Moreover, this client could not even get to that clinic because he did not have a car. It’s not easy to take a bus with a cast on your leg! Ramon stepped in and helped this client transfer care to a closer clinic that works with low income patients.
A single accident or a scary illness can wreck your life and ability to work. When you lose your job, you may lose your health insurance and access to medical care. It’s a spiral none of us want to experience. Same is true for our neighbors who receive services at CSA. I wish that all people had access to healthcare they need. For now, we have to support each other with resources that we have and thank Ramon for the work that he does.