This Thanksgiving, Health Care for Coachella Families

This Thanksgiving, Health Care for Coachella Families

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Above: Adilene Gomez and her daughter were among the 1,200 Eastern Coachella Valley residents who attended WE Connect. Photo: AURORA SALDIVAR/Coachella Uninc.

THERMAL, Calif. – Hundreds of families in Eastern Coachella Valley, located about 30 miles south of Palm Springs, may have something to be thankful for very soon: health insurance.

The WE Connect Health Care Enrollment and Resource Fair, held last Saturday at Coachella Valley High School, brought dozens of resources together to inform approximately 1,200 attendees about their health care options under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Among them was Francisca Rubalcava, 57, who has never had health insurance. She has seen a doctor three times in her life — once when each of her two daughters was born and once in Mexico.

“I want to find out if it’s true that one can get insurance, based on the money you have,” Rubalcava said in Spanish. Her only source of income is her husband’s Social Security checks.

Above: Francisca Rubalcava, 57, has never had health insurance. // photo: Sandy Close

Rubalcava says she is in excellent health and is more worried about her two daughters.

“I have a daughter in college, and if she gets sick, she can have somewhere to turn,” she said.

Her daughter Maria Flores, 24, helped Rubalcava fill out the applications. She also applied for herself, her husband, and her six-month old son, Alexander.

WE Connect, which has visited communities across the state, is particularly important in this region where 25 percent of residents live below the poverty line and make less than $7,000 annually.

“Having WE Connect in Coachella was significant on various levels, especially when it comes to reaching those who might not otherwise have access to reliable information on how the implementation of ACA will affect them,” said Silvia Paz, manager of Building Healthy Communities Eastern Coachella Valley. “There are over 30,000 residents in the Coachella Valley who qualify but are not enrolled for low cost or no cost insurance, like Medi-Cal, and the majority reside in the Eastern Coachella Valley.”

Adilene Gomez, 24, knows the devastating consequences of not having health care. When she suffered a miscarriage, she was denied Medi-Cal and was left with a $20,000 hospital bill.

“It’s difficult for people who don’t have a lot of work to pay for a huge medical bill, [while still kepping up with] kids and payments for the house and other utilities,” she said.

Gomez and her family attended WE Connect to apply for Obamacare. “There are a lot of people (at WE Connect) who can help you with paperwork and tell you what you do or don’t qualify for. [This is important for] for anyone who doesn’t own a computer or who does not have the time for it. I think there should be a few more events like this so people can come because some people still don’t know.”

BHC Eastern Coachella Valley is dedicating efforts to ensure that those currently left out of the ACA will soon be eligible for coverage.

“The Building Healthy Communities Prevention Team received over 100 pledges to support access to medical services for the remaining uninsured,” said Paz. “Among those who supported the pledge were Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez, Supervisor John Benoit, and (Coachella) Mayor Eduardo Garcia.”

The free event also offered medical screenings, financial planning resources, and enrollment assistance with CalFresh, the food assistance program for low-income Californians. The first 300 attendees received free frozen turkeys.

“WE Connect signaled the first of many efforts of Building Healthy Communities to ensure access for all to medical services, including providing resources to the remaining uninsured,” Paz said.

WE Connect is part of Building Healthy Communities Eastern Coachella Valley’s health care enrollment efforts. The event was co-sponsored by Covered California and The California Endowment’s “Asegúrate” or “Get Covered” initiative.