Supervisors agree to develop program that extends countywide health care coverage

Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves and members of COPA (Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action) spoke at the Monterey County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday afternoon, as part of a “study session” requested by the supervisors. The session explored health care programs currently available and gaps in coverage for uninsured residents.

Several congregations from the Diocese of El Camino Real are COPA members — including St. Mary’s by-the-Sea in Pacific Grove, St. John’s in Aptos, St. Phillip’s in Scotts Valley, and St. Luke’s in Hollister. St. George’s Salinas and additional congregations were represented at the meeting.

The study session was organized by COPA, a broad-based organization of 22 religious congregations, schools, unions, and non-profit organizations in Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Benito Counties. Several congregations from the Diocese of El Camino Real are members of COPA, including St. Mary’s by-the Sea in Pacific Grove, and St. John the Baptist in Aptos and other congregations that participated in the event, such as (San Pablo- get correct name) are exploring membership.

The supervisors heard personal stories of unmet healthcare needs from residents of Monterey County. One woman, disabled by hip pain, needs a hip replacement, which is covered, but cannot afford to pay for rehabilitation after the operation. The director of a Salinas nonprofit testified that many of her clients are too frightened of immigration actions to seek medical care until it is urgently needed. Presentations by the Monterey County Health Department and Health Access California provided an overview of county and state health care programs.

COPA proposed that the supervisors create a healthcare action team that would review how several California counties have addressed this problem. They would return to the board in 4 months with options for how Monterey County could provide care for the remaining low-income uninsured who, because they are undocumented, are not eligible for Medi-Cal or the Affordable Care Act. The proposed action team would include supervisors, county health officials, COPA representatives, health care providers and other key medical and community leaders.

“I think we all agree that health care should be a right regardless of where you come from,” said Supervisor John Phillips. “It’s just a matter of finding a way to pay for it. Getting away from emergency care to wellness care just makes sense.” After discussion, the board voted unanimously to create a healthcare action team as an ad hoc subcommittee, with Supervisors Parker and Salinas participating.

The committee is scheduled to return to the board by November 15 and report on detailed goals and a work plan.
Last year, COPA worked with the Monterey County Health Department to develop a $500,000 pilot program that provides access to lab, radiology and prescription drug services for uninsured residents.