Kern County health care leaders and families sound alarm over safety net cuts

Contact: Tom Webster 661-321-4163

Bakersfield, CA – Local health care leaders held a news conference on Monday to draw urgent attention to a looming threat to the local health care system. Even as California is poised to greatly reduce the numbers of uninsured through the federal Affordable Care Act and a companion state plan to expand Medi-Cal to cover more Californians, a related budget proposal threatens to strip funding Kern County needs to cover those who will remain uninsured.

“The intention of passing healthcare reform at the national level was never to strip funds out of already underfunded county healthcare safety nets,” said Paul Hensler, Kern Medical Center CEO. “There will be 3-4 million Californians who still don’t have coverage after the Affordable Care Act is implemented; we need to build a healthcare system that works to meet their needs instead of leaving them out.”

After health care reform is adopted, three to four million Californians will still be uninsured and will depend on county safety nets made up of public hospitals like Kern Medical Center, county health centers and community clinics. If county healthcare funding is stripped, those institutions may be in jeopardy, affecting the accessibility and affordability of healthcare throughout the region.

“Every day on my job, I see the people who rely on the healthcare safety net and who will continue to need it,” said Regina Kane, R.N., who works at Kern Medical Center. “For the man with diabetes who needs a place to get preventive care, or a family in a car accident, the safety net needs to be here and be even stronger and better.”

Leaders of Kern Medical Center, the Service Employees International Union Local 521 that represents KMC workers, and families who count on the healthcare safety net for care their families called on Sacramento to ensure the Affordable Care Act delivers on its promise of delivering quality healthcare for all. Healthcare reform implementation efforts in Sacramento got off to a good start, but are now getting bogged down over funding issues.

If the bills to expand Medi-Cal keep getting pushed back, the state won’t be ready by January 2014. Likewise, if California doesn’t work out a solution for a large group of working families who earn a little too much to qualify for Medi-Cal but not enough to afford care under the exchange, they could be left out. Advocates urged timely action on both issues.

“We are speaking out for all the residents of Kern County. Everyone needs access to affordable, high quality healthcare,” said Carmen Burgos. “The time to move forward on healthcare reform is now.”

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The Service Employees International Union is an organization of 2.1 million members united by the belief in the dignity and worth of workers and the services they provide. SEIU is dedicated to improving the lives of workers and their families and creating a more just and humane society. For more information, visit

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