Tuesday, outside the 1st Street Clinica Sierra Vista office, the #Health4Kern (H4K) Coalition held a press conference encouraging residents to prioritize their healthcare and not delay doctor visits.
The H4K Coalition is a working group made up of Kern County residents and community-based organizations that strive to ensure access to healthcare and coverage for all of Kern County’s populations.
“With preventative care, the main focus is on prevention. With that, being up to date on routine physical exams is so important,” stated Javier Hernandez, a Nurse Practitioner with Clinica Sierra Vista.
Hernandez continued by discussing the importance of being up to date with vaccinations and cancer screenings as well, informing the people that it is easier to treat an illness before it happens than when it finally does happen.
The press conference’s key message was to tell residents that it’s time to renew their Medi-Cal or sign up for coverage. And beginning in January 2024, Medi-Cal will become available for all adults, regardless of immigration status.
Traco Matthews, the Chief Health Equity Officer for Kern Health Services (KHS), also spoke during the press conference, expressing his excitement to help Medi-Cal recipients keep and maintain their coverage.
“Kern Family Health Care is proud to partner with the Kern County Department of Human Services, who will share accurate Medi-Cal renewal date information with us. We are using this data for direct member messaging and outreach via mail, text, phone calls, member portal, and other methods to remind members about their Medi-Cal renewal deadline and assist them so they don’t lose their Medi-Cal coverage if they still qualify,” Matthews stated.
Matthews went on to reveal that KHS staff will be assisting anyone that needs help completing their Medi-Cal renewals.
“We are also connecting with community partners to highlight the importance of completing Medi-Cal renewals timely so that residents don’t lose their healthcare coverage,” Matthews concluded.
Medi-Cal renewals can be turned in at various locations throughout Kern County, including at the Department of Human Services, any Clinica Sierra Vista location, Kern Family Health Care, Community Action Partnership of Kern (CAPK), Garden Pathways, or the Kern County Superintendent of Schools (KCSOS).
“We want to make sure you get that information and we want to make sure that people retain their Medi-Cal coverage. You really never know when something might happen where you need that,” stated the Kern County Department of Human Services Chief Deputy Direction Cindy Uetz.
According to a press release sent out by the H4K Coalition, more Kern residents die of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – a disease that damages the lungs in ways that make it hard to breathe – or asthma than other Californians.
“While we have a lower risk for hospitalizations than the state, Kern residents are still dying from COPD at a higher rate,” the press release stated.
Additionally, Kern residents experience higher hospitalizations for community-acquired pneumonia than Californians (75 per 100,000 Kern residents compared to 66 Californians) and more Kern residents die of diabetes (43 per 100,000 Kern residents compared to 22 per 100,000 Californians) and Coronary Heart Disease (116 per 100,000 Kern residents compared to 80 per 100,000 Californians).
Reyna Olaguez, the President and CEO of Building Healthy Communities Kern (BHC), also spoke during the press conference. Olaguez reminded the public of the importance of taking advantage of health and nutrition programs, regardless of immigration status.
“Under the current public charge policy, nobody will become a public charge and be denied an immigration benefit just because they or their family members used public healthcare or nutrition programs of which they were eligible,” Olaguez shared. “It is important to prioritize your health and the health of your family without fear of repercussions.”