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Monday, March 12, 2012

Merced Sun-Star - Merced nonprofit aims to ensure Hmong receive health care

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By YESENIA AMARO 

A Merced nonprofit is working to make sure that eligible Hmong children and their families enroll for benefits in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The Healthy House Within a MATCH Coalition has two grants to help enroll at least 700 eligible Hmong children and adults for health insurance coverage under the law, said Candice Adam-Medefind, executive director for the nonprofit.

As part of the grants, Healthy House also will work on policy issues, develop culturally and language responsive materials about the law and play an advocacy role in making sure Merced County implements the law effectively and efficiently, she said. "To keep the voice of the ethnic community in the debate," she said.

One of the grants is from PICO California (People Improving Communities through Organizing), a faith-based organization that helps to address problems and concerns in communities, according to its website. The second grant is from the Building Resources, Insuring Growth for a Healthy Tomorrow Project.

Healthy House joined with PICO California, organizations in the Hmong Health Collaborative and the Southeast Asia Resource Action Agency in Sacramento to implement the grants.

The nonprofit surveyed 106 Hmong families in Merced to get a sense of how many children and adults are uninsured.

The results indicated that 15 percent of the families had uninsured children under the age of 18, Adam-Medefind said, and 53 percent had uninsured adults.

Nearly 60 percent of the families said they would like help to apply for health insurance coverage through the Low Income Health Program.

The program is being established in counties across the state to extend coverage.

Merced County is one of 10 counties in the state that isn't far into the process of implementing the program, Adam-Medefind said.

Healthy House has requested a meeting with officials from the Merced County Department of Public Health to see where they are with the implementation and how the nonprofit can help.

There are several barriers explaining why families are uninsured, said Adam-Medefind. They include economic, language, lack of knowledge and institutional barriers.

Palee Moua, director of cultural services at Healthy House, said she's interviewing local families to find out what their personal barriers are to being uninsured or having uninsured children. She will present the local stories of families next week in Fresno at a news conference.

The cost of care can be so high that some of the uninsured choose to forgo a visit to the doctor when they're sick, Moua said.
Merced County has about 2,000 children who are eligible for Medi-Cal or Healthy Families, an insurance program for people with low incomes, but they're not enrolled, Adam-Medefind said. About 79 percent of them are Latino children.

Adam-Medefind said she's glad to be doing this work, especially because the Central Valley is one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the nation. It's critical that community-based organizations get involved to make sure that the cultural groups in the Central Valley are enrolled, she said. "This is a chance for us to build a more equitable society," she said.

Moua said she wished they also had "funding to educate the community to understand how to advocate for themselves."

A study recently released indicated that more than 100,000 people in the state probably will miss out on the benefits from the Affordable Care Act because of language barriers.

 

Read more here: http://www.mercedsunstar.com/2012/03/10/2263447/merced-nonprofit-aims-to-ensure.html#storylink=cpy#storylink=cpy