San Diego- A 28,000-square foot state-of-the-art medical facility for low income families has opened for business. For those seeking prenatal and First 5 San Diego child resources in the San Ysidro area, families will be greeted with the latest technology and top-notch health care providers.
Located about mile north of the Mexican border, the San Ysidro Health Centers new $18 million location is set to treat families living below the poverty line (roughly $17,000).
A bevy of services are offered to woman and their children including, child development, teaching kitchen, family resource center, pediatric dentistry, woman’s health, pediatric well care, WIC, public assistant services and laboratory services.
The lion’s share of the money used to build the health facility came from the First 5 Commission of San Diego. They donated an estimated $5.3 million. The center also garnered another $8 million through grants and undisclosed donations.
The new high-tech center will operate under and annual budget of $47 million, according to the clinics CEO Ed Martinez. “We will now begin the process of treating women and children who are at risk because they reside in low income households.”
The center which operates as a one-stop shopping center for healthcare contains offices for WIC and other social services like food stamps.
When asked if the center requires identification for treatment and services, Martinez replied, “No, not really. We ask for their residence and rely on their honesty to provide a nominal $10 per visit charge. These services are all provided at little to no cost to families who claim to earn less than $17,000 per household.”
“They (the families) are not looking for handouts,” Martinez said. “However, we do have another office in the building that will help those pay for the $10 co-payment if they are unable to pay it.”
This doesn’t sit well with some community members. During a time of recession in the country and especially California, spending federal, state and local tax money for patients with questionable lawful residential backgrounds is concerning to taxpayer advocate groups.
“If we continue to offer these incentives for virtually free medical care treatment, we will never get a hold of this immigration issue,” Dr. Gary Gonsalves who founded Stop Taxing Us a taxpayer advocacy group. “As a practicing doctor I have a front row seat.”
According to the center, identification is not required for services and most of the employees are Spanish speaking.
“This is where I have a problem. I would hope that the medical center is asking about lawful residency before giving out a free ride,” said Ted Hilton of Taxpayer Revolution.
The woman’s health center currently relies on area universities for doctors and dentists. “We work directly with University of California of San Diego and University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) for their residency students,” Martinez said.
“It is the universities who pay the residency doctors and dentists their monthly stipends and we get valuable doctor services in return.”
The San Ysidro Health Center considers itself a “safety net” and a last resort health care provider. “Our bottom line is that we want the families to be healthy and thrive. By giving low income families care reduces disparities and provides preventative care,” Martinez said.
Now that the facility is open it will have to compete with other agencies for grants, Medi-Cal and Medicaid to keep the $47 million budget rolling every year.
This could be tough if the State enacts the California Taxpayer Protection Act of 2010. This legislation will require an identification process to take place in order for the medical facility to continue to receive Medi-Cal benefits, federal and state grants.
“Skirting the state identification law would be a lot harder,” Hilton concluded.