Health plans is Rivera's main focus

MODESTO -- It's been almost five years since David Rivera started working for the United Way in Stanislaus County.

"I'm still here willing to work with families and figure out the best options in health insurance programs available to them at low or no cost," Rivera said.

Rivera works with Healthy Families, Medi-Cal, Healthy Cubs and Kaiser Child Health Plan and his assistance is free of cost. His main priority is those families who live in Stanislaus County but he also works with families from San Joaquín County.

Best of all, he is fully bilingual and said he enjoys what he does.

"Knowing that I have made a difference in someone's life is what I enjoy most about my work. Knowing that a child who didn't have health insurance will have some sort of coverage -- especially if they don't have a legal status," said Rivera, who is also a specialist with the United Way's 211 system.

The 211 system, said Rivera, is a reference telephone hotline to services that are available for residents such as social, legal, food, health, rent, or support group assistant services, said Rivera, 41.

What Rivera wants to really stress is the fact that there is healthy coverage available for undocumented families with children under 18 years of age.

"Kaiser's is a private health insurance plan and has nothing to do with the federal or state government," Rivera said. "It will not affect their immigration process either. They should not be afraid. The application does not even ask about your immigration status."

Rivera said he is available to help fill out the applications and find the best options for them.

His schedule is Monday through Friday and he divides his time between the main Modesto office and he visits Patterson and Newman every Thursday.

His visits are vital for many residents in the West side of the county who do quality for the health programs.

"I have a lot of families who are having difficulty with transportation to go outside the city," Rivera said.

He noted that there is only one doctor in that entire area that accepts the Kaiser Child Health Plan.

"There should be more who accept Kaiser's health plan, that would alleviate a lot of stress for all those families," he said.

During the school year, Rivera keeps quite busy thanks to referrals from school principals, teachers and nurses, as well as from parents he has previously assisted.

"Usually, I receive an average of 35 families for the Healthy Families program and 61 for the insurance offered by Kaiser Permanente," Rivera said.

About 99 percent of the families he assist are Latino, he said.

"The important thing is to enroll these children in any health insurance, especially with all the budget cuts and unemployment rates," he said.

In his quest to find other ways to aid families in the Central Valley, Rivera was recently sworn to the California Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board Advisory Panel.

"I want to take the Central Valley issues to the Capitol because they tend to forget about us," Rivera said, "especially when our families are suffering due to the high unemployment rate."

Rivera is also a member of the Stanislaus County Healthy Families Task Force.

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