Olga Martínez has Medi-Cal health care coverage, but that doesn’t mean she has access to health care.
Doctors who do accept Medi-Cal patients are booked far in advance, she said.
Abraham Barrón said the biggest challenge for people who have Medi-Cal is getting their procedures done in a timely matter without having to wait six months down the road for those procedures to be done.
“How can we make it better, faster,” Barrón said.
Those were among the health care concerns expressed by Modesto-area residents at a listening session about the challenges they face in accessing quality and equitable health care for newly elected Congressman Josh Harder, D-Modesto.
Harder listened to personal stories from members of a coalition of community groups on a variety of issues including access to health care, health care that is affordable, high-quality, and culturally relevant to all communities, health care that is comprehensive, including mental health, oral health, and preventive care as well as ensuring that those communities have the social, economic, and environmental infrastructure necessary to live healthy lives.
Harder said he wanted to make sure that during his first 100 days in office he was deeply grounded “in healthcare reality of our community.”
“That makes me better equipped to actually fight for our communities back in Washington,” said Harder of the importance of listening to his constituents.
“So in our first 100 days, I am doing a series of listening tours across the breadth of our district, with every individual who wants to come out and have their story be heard on issues healthcare, homelessness, water, jobs, immigration.”
“Making sure we are really fighting for the richness and diversity of the district. We have done town halls, we have done open office hours, and we have done a series of forums like this, where community members can come and share their stories,” said Harder, adding that it makes him more effective in advocating and fighting for the community.”
Bev Jones, a cancer survivor who lives on a fixed income, told Harder that she even though she has Medicare, in order to keep the doctors she needed for herself she had to pay for $140 more a month, something that was not easy living on a fixed income.
Jones also shared that equipment such as walkers, scooters or even a cane can’t be affordable for people like her.
“I couldn’t afford it,” said Jones, who relies on a cane someone bought for her.
The invitation-only event, held at the King-Kennedy Memorial Center on Martin Luther King Drive in Modesto, was hosted by California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, Having Our Say Coalition, Mi Familia Vota, and West Modesto Community Collaborative.
Organizers said it was important to have the session because health care was one of the defining issues of the 2018 election.
All organizations represent communities of color in Harder’s District 10, which includes Modesto, Turlock, Manteca, Tracy, and Oakdale.
Pam Brazil talked about how many women in her community don’t go for their mammogram or men don’t go for prostate exams.
Offir Thorne, who has been living in the United States for about 48 years, she was very happy to have migrated to the United States. However, as she become older she was surprised how one of the richest countries in the world has the worse access to health care.
She said living on Social Security is not enough to afford health care including medicines.
Marisol Marín said one of the issues she sees at the resource center where she works is “the lack of trust” that people in the community have when it comes to primary care physicians because many time they wait five hours at the clinics to see a doctor for 10 minutes.
Marín said there is a huge need for “building a relationship with your doctor and that lead to no wanting to go back.”
Providing an example, Marín said many people who use the resource center go to them for help filling out forms, plus other many times don’t feel welcome at clinics.
Verónica Tovar, program coordinator in Stanislaus County, said her work is tied to environmental justice including air quality and has seen first-hand a high number of people having asthma in those disadvantage communities.
Harder said over the next two year he will be working very closely on how to make sure every individual has access to affordable care including introducing a new legislation on Medicare in the next few days.