Hemet and San Jacinto uninsured twice as high than California average
■ Mary Ann Morris / Editor
Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, health insurance was nearly unheard of. Most families paid cash for doctors visits, or bartered with whatever goods they had. These days, if one doesn’t have health insurance, or the government’s insurance plan under the Affordable Health Care Act, you risk not receiving treatment. But having health insurance doesn’t mean everything is covered, either.
For example, if you are under the government insurance program (Medi-Cal) for the low-income and have no co-pay, and you need a prescription medication not covered by the insurance plan, you are not allowed to purchase it with cash, “because you are too poor to pay for health insurance,” according to a Hemet Walgreens pharmacist. What the pharmacist means is if someone is too poor to pay for health insurance, they don’t (or shouldn’t) have the money to pay cash for a prescription. Furthermore, the pharmacist told The Valley Chronicle that if the person did pay for the uncovered prescription by cash, the person would lose their health insurance because it is considered fraud and that person would be dropped from the insurance rolls.
This week the Prosperity Scorecard measures how California, Hemet and San Jacinto compare to the rest of the nation. The Scorecard rates health care insurance coverage in California as a “C.” Regarding policies, California complies with both policies: the state places limits on hospital charges, billing and collections; and the state has expanded Medicaid to at least 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The federal poverty level for a family of four is $24,600, so a family of four would need to earn less than $33,948 to qualify for Medicaid, or in California, Medi-Cal. A family of five would need to earn $36,716 annually to qualify. The median household income in Hemet is $33,989; the median income in San Jacinto is $46,725.
History of Medicaid/Medi-Cal
Medicaid is a health and long-term care coverage program that was enacted in 1965. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was established in 1997 to provide new coverage opportunities for children in families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid, but who still cannot afford private coverage. Both Medicaid and CHIP are administered by states within broad federal guidelines and jointly funded by the federal government and states. California operates a state-based marketplace and has expanded coverage to low-income adults.
As of June 2017, California has enrolled 12,213,234 individuals in Medicaid and CHIP — a net increase of 57.48 percent since the first Marketplace Open Enrollment Period and related Medicaid program changes in October 2013. California has adopted one or more of the targeted enrollment strategies outlined in guidance CMS issued on May 17, 2013, designed to facilitate enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP.
The Affordable Care Act and Patient Protection Act (Obamacare) has increased access to health care to previously unseen levels, according to the Scorecard. Some 5 million previously uninsured Californians are now insured. Uninsured rates have dropped nationally and in every state by nearly seven percentage points since 2010, with a current national rate of just 10.9 percent of the population going without insurance.
But the numbers aren’t so great in the San Jacinto Valley. While almost 54 percent of California employers provide health coverage to their employees, only 40 percent of employers in San Jacinto and just 35 percent of Hemet employers provide insurance to their employees.
And while California boasts a better uninsured rate (9.7 percent) than the nation as a whole (10.9 percent), the San Jacinto Valley’s uninsured rate is twice that – with one-fifth of its population going without insurance.
The rate goes up to 29 percent uninsured, if you are a person of color in the San Jacinto Valley.
Statewide, statistically, only 21 percent of people of color remain uninsured. It’s not just minorities who remain uninsured at higher rates – men also have a higher percentage of being uninsured. Nationally, 13 percent of men are uninsured; in California 12 percent of men are uninsured, and in San Jacinto, 24 percent of men have no healthcare insurance and 28 percent of men in Hemet have no insurance. Experts warn that if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, the number of uninsured people of color will rise dramatically.
One would think the statistics for children would be better, however, nationally, while just 6.6 percent of low-income children and 4.2 percent of California’s low-income children lack insurance, almost 8 percent of San Jacinto’s and almost 11 percent of Hemet’s low income children don’t have any health care coverage at all.
While California does have a lower rate of uninsured people, compared to the rest of the nation, it’s startling to learn that one-fifth of the San Jacinto Valley is uninsured.