Guest blog post by Jason Villanueva, Spanish Communications Coordinator at Mosaic
Eleven years ago, I applied for a job as a bilingual phone operator at Mosaic Medical. At the time, the job seemed naively simple in my head. The phone rings, I answer. Schedule appointments, and occasionally speak Spanish. Being bilingual justified every reason I told myself that I was ready for the job. A year into the role, I realized just how wrong I was. This position gave me a very raw glimpse of the disparities and needs of patients and community members alike.
When I spoke with Spanish speakers from various Latin American countries, I noticed a recurring theme that would bother me: not being able to access the healthcare services they needed because of the inability to pay or being ineligible for the Oregon Health Plan. I felt compelled to do more. This was one primary reason I decided to become a Community Health Worker at Mosaic. To advocate and connect our patients to the resources and care they needed. Now, as the Spanish Communications Coordinator, advocacy and connection carries a significant meaning for me.
Access to Healthcare
What does not having access to healthcare look like? For some people it means not being able to get an appointment when they need one. It might mean not having a way to get to an appointment. Up until recently, many people were not able to access health insurance because of their immigration status. In 2021, Hispanic or Latino people had among the highest uninsured rate in the nation at 17.7%.
On July 1, 2022, eligibility guidelines for the Oregon Health Plan (OHP) dramatically changed thanks to a program called Healthier Oregon. This program allows more adults to be eligible for full OHP benefits and other services—regardless of immigration status—for the first time in Oregon’s history. Those age 19-25 or age 55 and older are no longer are denied coverage for being undocumented. At Mosaic, we believe that every person in Central Oregon deserves access to quality healthcare services. We work with our patients to help address many barriers that prevent people from accessing healthcare. We knew Healthier Oregon was something we needed to be a part of. Learn more on our website HERE.
Local Partnerships That Make A Difference
Recently we’ve joined together with Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) and the Latino Community Association (LCA) to help spread awareness about the change in OHP eligibility guidelines with the Latino community in Central Oregon. To accomplish this, we need to share this message in a way that resonates with the local community. Also, we need to do outreach in places where Latino community members work, play and live. Our overall goal is to provide enrollment assistance and navigation.
Since Healthier Oregon went into effect this past summer, numerous Latino immigrants’ lives have changed. This is true in the case of Maria, a Mosaic patient who was recently approved for full benefits with the Oregon Health Plan as a result of the Healthier Oregon program. For over 15 years Maria has received medical care at Mosaic thanks to our sliding scale discount program, which reduces the cost of her visits to a minimal co-pay. However, when Maria needs medications, specialty care or routine mammograms, it requires several applications to receive financial assistance to cover the services she needs. For Maria, the cost of preventative healthcare services has been a constant stressor. Now on OHP, she can obtain medications, complete routine testing and manage her health at no cost.
A Personal Perspective
As a Latino immigrant myself, this work has deeply affected my life in a positive way. For many years, my family was excluded from receiving Medicaid benefits because of our immigration status. Preventative care was not something that was accessible. We also had a lack of knowledge of available services in Central Oregon largely due to the language barrier and little understanding of the healthcare system. These lived experiences fuel my passion to share the Healthier Oregon message with hard-working Latino individuals and families, many of which have never had health insurance or a medical provider since immigrating to the United States.
I don’t know if it’s because of my personal experiences or because I’ve seen the disparities that effect this community firsthand, but somewhere along my journey I’ve developed a deep admiration for the Latino community in Central Oregon. Stories like Maria’s, as well as the countless other patients seeking care at VIM or who are clients at LCA, inspire me to continue to reach out and help immigrant members of our community to access healthcare. This project would not be possible without the dedicated group of individuals at VIM, LCA and Mosaic passionately carrying this work forward, and I’m proud to be a part of it.
For more information about Healthier Oregon, call 541-948-9183 or email us at: [email protected]