L.A. program offers healthcare for illegal restaurant workers

A restaurant workers’ group and an L.A. clinic have partnered in a program to provide inexpensive healthcare coverage for illegal immigrants and other uninsured food service workers.

A restaurant workers’ group and a Los Angeles community clinic have launched a unique cooperative to provide health coverage to a group of people excluded from federal healthcare reform — illegal immigrants.

The pilot program, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, offers preventive and primary care to low-wage, uninsured workers in the restaurant industry. Legal immigrants and other restaurant workers who don’t meet the criteria or cannot afford coverage under the healthcare law are also eligible.

About 75,000 restaurant workers in Los Angeles don’t have access to insurance because of their immigration status, Mariana Huerta of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Los Angeles, or ROC-LA, said Wednesday.

“Restaurant workers are preparing, serving and cooking our food,” Huerta said. “So many of these workers reported that they go to work sick. That is a public health hazard for consumers.”

Under the program, called ROC-MD, uninsured workers pay $25 a month so they can go to one of several clinics run by St. John’s Well Child and Family Center for physicals, basic dental care and treatment for common illnesses. The program started last fall, but organizers formally announced it Wednesday and are now recruiting more participants.


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