San Diego officials say uninsured should call 211 if they have COVID-19 symptoms

Posted at 6:34 PM, Mar 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-27 21:34:49-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Millions of Americans are uninsured during the coronavirus pandemic, with more at risk of losing their jobs and in turn losing their healthcare coverage.

A 17-year-old boy in Lancaster was reportedly denied treatment at an urgent care clinic there and instead told to go to a hospital.

On the way to the hospital, he went into cardiac arrest, according to Mayor R. Rex Parris in a video posted to YouTube.

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Parris said when the teen got to the hospital he was revived, but died hours later.

The teen tested positive for COVID-19, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still evaluating his case, so he has been removed from the Los Angeles County death toll for now.

"Once you go into respiratory issues, you have trouble breathing, you're short of breath and you have a fever," said Parris. "That is the time to get medical treatment without delay."

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That is the problem for the millions of uninsured Americans. Although testing for COVID-19 may be free, treatment is not.

10News asked health officials at a San Diego County press conference about what's being done to reassure uninsured San Diegans that they won't be turned away like the 17-year-old in Lancaster.

"In general if individuals do not have insurance, there is the county's phone number, or they can call 211. That's probably the easiest thing to do, is call 211," said San Diego County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten.

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We asked if someone would be turned away if they tried to get help at an urgent care clinic with COVID-19 symptoms, but did not have insurance.

"When somebody presents to a specific facility for care and it's not emergent there is usually a process for them to determine whether that is an appropriate place for them to be cared for," explained Dr. Eric McDonald, the Medical Director for the County Epidemiology and Immunization Branch.

"For example if it's an insurance related thing and they don't have insurance for that facility, they may be asked to go to another facility, the good news is in San Diego we have a very good mechanism through 211 for individuals who don't have insurance to be able to access clinics where they will be accepted for care."

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Right now Covered California is providing a special enrollment period because of the coronavirus.

Uninsured, eligible Californians can apply for free or low cost health insurance coverage through the end of June.

You can apply online here.