Written by Donald A. Promnitz
Panelists discussed the various influences and impacts of Medi-Cal in Fresno County Wednesday morning at the Fresno Healthcare Coalition’s Strategic Forum.
The forum, which was held at the Falls Event Center in northwest Fresno, included a panel on the effects of Medi-Cal on businesses and the impact it’s made on employees. This panel was piloted by Lee Ann Eager, president and CEO of the Fresno County Economic Development Corp., Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation CEO Dora Westerlund, Nisei Farmers League President Manuel Cunha, Jr. and Lorraine Salazar, co-owner of Sal’s Mexican Restaurants.
During the panel, the four discussed the importance of Medi-Cal benefits for employees, which provide coverage that small and medium-sized employees often can’t provide, even with California’s increased minimum wage.
“Averaged with tips…let’s say in my restaurants, what you’d call ‘family casual,’ our servers are earning $35 to $60/hour,” Salazar said. “And you’d think if we offer the health care plan with the ACA, that they would take the insurance, but they don’t because they can’t afford it, even at that hourly wage.”
Salazar, however, said that Medi-Cal gave her employees options for treatment that they wouldn’t normally have.
“So Medi-Cal is really important because in our industry… about 60 percent are using their Medi-Cal services, otherwise, they couldn’t afford services,” she said. She said an added benefit is dental coverage.
Cunha, meanwhile, said that in the future, he would like to see advances in Medi-Cal’s optometry coverage.
“Don’t you think that optical is important for many of our workers? Eyeglasses,” Cunha said. “Once you lose those as a young kid, what have you got? What do you have? So, I would like to see health care include medical, dental and the eye.”
The panel was concluded with a question and answer session with the speakers.