L.A. Program Provides Care to Undocumented Restaurant Workers

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A Los Angeles community clinic and a restaurant workers group are piloting a new program that offers health coverage to undocumented residents in the restaurant industry, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The program began last fall, but officials officially announced it on Wednesday and now are recruiting more participants. The initiative is believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S.

According to the Times, about 75,000 restaurant workers in Los Angeles do not have access to health insurance because of their immigration status.

Mariana Huerta of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Los Angeles said, "Restaurant workers are preparing, serving and cooking our food," adding, "So many of these workers reported that they go to work sick. That is a public health hazard for consumers."

Program Details

The program -- known as ROC-MD -- provides low-income, undocumented restaurant workers with access to preventive and primary health care services. Documented U.S. residents and other restaurant employees who cannot afford health insurance coverage under the federal health reform law also are eligible for ROC-MD.

Under the program, uninsured workers pay $25 per month and are able to receive physicals, basic dental care and treatment for common illnesses at several clinics run by St. John's Well Child and Family Center.

Joseph Villela -- senior policy advocate with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles -- said the program does not replace traditional health plans but helps ensure workers receive preventive care and avoid unnecessary emergency department visits (Gorman, Los Angeles Times, 5/3).

Clark Norwood
The city of Los Angeles is despicable for supporting this program if not for running it. This program further encourages legal businesses to break the law by hiring illegal immigrants and I assume paying them under the table, thus depriving the local, state and federal governments their fair share of tax revenue. If the federal government would grow a spine and take a hard line on immigration law this situation would be greatly decreased. Withholding federal tax dollars to cities that thumb their nose at federal immigration laws might tend to change the attitude of local and state agencies. Are they at least doing pre-employment screening for Hepatitis and teaching proper sanitation procedures to these illegals who are preparing our food?

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