Workers and county leaders speak up for public healthcare systems

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Healthcare04012013SEIU 521 members stood side by side with healthcare leaders from Kern and Monterey counties at two separate press conferences on Monday to draw urgent attention to a looming threat affecting local health care systems.

“We are here today to sound the alarm that a budget proposal from Sacramento – if implemented – would shred Monterey County’s health care safety net and this public hospital behind me,” said Ben Franklin, SEIU 521 Monterey County Chapter President, standing in front of Natividad Medical Center, along with county Supervisors Simon Salinas and Fernando Armenta.

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County workers are at the forefront of making sure the Affordable Care Act truly brings accessible, quality healthcare to all – and that includes the population that relies on our traditional public safety-net hospitals.

“Natividad Medical Center is the backbone of Monterey County’s healthcare system and Monterey County Eligibility Workers will be on the front line of enrolling newly eligible people to Medi-Cal and helping low-income families meet their healthcare needs. But for the thousands who remain uncovered (under the Affordable Care Act), public safety net hospitals like Natividad are a lifeline,” said Franklin.

About 10% of Californians will still lack coverage once health care reform is implemented. These 3 million to 4 million Californians will depend on the county safety net made up of public hospitals, county health centers and community clinics.

And those institutions – including our jobs and the work we do – may be in jeopardy if California doesn’t meet a federal deadline to be ready by Jan. 1, 2014.

Regina Kane, Kern County Chapter President and R.N., urged the state to leave hospital funding alone.

“It wasn’t the intention to give funds and services from those who have little from those who have even less. It is a tragic and twisted proposal. It would not only hurt individuals, it would hurt our community.”

Kane was Joined by Kern Medical Center CEO Paul Hensler.

“The intention of passing healthcare reform at the national level was never to strip funds out of already underfunded county healthcare safety nets,” said Hensler. “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.”

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