We were desperate: health care transforms a family

GetCovered_webSylvia Rauch and her husband Ted were used to doing without health care. She gave up her private health coverage when it got too expensive; he was denied due to a pre-existing condition. They made do with hospital visits when something was serious.

But things got a lot more serious earlier this year, when Ted started walking strangely and losing weight. Then his vision deteriorated. Suddenly he couldn’t drive.

“He had diabetes and we didn’t know how serious it was. It was affecting his vision. His eyes were bleeding. It got to the point where we were desperate,” said Sylvia. (Sylvia and Ted’s names have been changed at their request to protect the family’s privacy.)

Ted’s mother called Puente Safety Net Manager Lorena Vargas de Mendez. When she met with the couple, she knew she needed to act fast.

Normally, getting someone enrolled in Medi-Cal takes between 45 days and 6 months. But Vargas submitted a personal request for expedited processing. She was able to back up her request with a statement from Karen Hackett, a San Mateo County Public Health Nurse who has an office at Puente. Hackett was available to examine Ted on short notice, and free of charge.

It worked. Ted’s Medi-Cal application was approved within a month, instead of 6 months.

Ted had laser surgery on both eyes in August, the first of several operations. The family’s new health care plan also covers Ted’s diabetes medications.

“He’s doing a lot better. He’s able to drive now, which is like a miracle,” said Sylvia.

Staffers at Puente already know that accessing health insurance at the eleventh hour can save somebody’s life. In the Rauch’s case, Puente’s “safety net” services solved problems for the whole family. Sylvia has health care now too, and so does their young daughter.

Not only that. When de Mendez understood more about the family’s precarious financial situation – Ted has been unemployed for some time – she realized they also qualified for CalFresh, federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. She helped Sylvia enroll in CalFresh in one simple step in Puente’s headquarters. Sylvia never had to visit any county or state office for health care or food stamps.

“It’s good that Puente has the kind of safety net where participants can come and get everything they need, instead of going from agency to agency and from one person to another,” said de Mendez.

Today, the Rauch family receives $530 a month to purchase food through CalFresh – nearly enough to take care of their entire grocery bill, according to Sylvia.

“When Puente helps, they do help. It’s a wonderful program,” she said.

For more information about how to enroll in a Puente, contact Lorena Vargas de Mendez at 650.879.1691 ext 116 or lvargas@mypuente.org.


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