The California Report: Obamacare Means New Challenges for California’s Safety Net Providers

Natividad Medical Center is a public hospital in Salinas. It's part of the system of safety net institutions that serve Californians with nowhere else to go. Even as health reform is implemented, millions of Californians will remain uninsured. (Lisa Morehouse/KQED)

By Lisa Morehouse

California leads the nation in the number of people getting insurance through the Affordable Care Act. But now that the final deadline has come and gone on Tuesday, millions are still left uninsured. These people will still turn to community clinics and public hospitals for care — they are the safety net institutions that serve Californians with nowhere else to go. But as the ACA is implemented, those institutions are facing changes.

One such place is Centro Medico. It’s tucked away in a corner of a shopping center in Cathedral City, a predominantly Latino bedroom community sandwiched between the resort towns of Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage. Here is where many hospitality workers who serve the neighboring resorts live.

Centro Medico’s manager, Daisy Morfin, sees a lot of pent-up need for medical care. Since enrollment in the Affordable Care Act started last fall, she says the clinic is getting up to 10 new patients a day.

Many are people who have qualified for health insurance for the first time in years — or ever.

“Now they’re coming, and we need to take care of multiple chronic issues,” she says. “We’re having to deal with a lot of referrals, a lot of things that need to be taken care of, medication that hasn’t been adjusted in months. It’s a big difference.”

Right now, the workload is heavier for everyone, but Morfin’s not complaining. She believes that after these new patients get their needs met, the volume of appointments will drop, and she’s happy to see them taken care of. Joanna Ramos thinks so too. She’s a counselor at Centro Medico.

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  • LAAAC is managed by St. Barnabas Senior Services; Funded, in part, by Archstone Foundation.
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