As we observe Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, ABC7 is taking a closer look at health care accessibility.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- As we observe Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Eyewitness News is taking a closer look at health care accessibility.
Being able to get medical care is a basic need that isn't being met for many Californians.
If English isn't your first language, getting the appropriate care following an injury or illness can be tough.
But one local justice group is working to break down the language and cultural challenges facing many groups.
"For them to express what health condition they have, you know, sometimes, that's a huge challenge for them," said Neeta Dayal with the South Asian Helpline and Referral Agency, also known as SAHARA.
Many in the South Asian community depend on SAHARA for referrals, rides and the ability to obtain affordable health insurance.
It's one of 18 Asian American and Pacific Islander community groups partnering with AJSoCal to reach the most vulnerable.
"Whether that's because they were uninsured and undocumented or because they were limited English proficient or just faced a lot of stigma or cultural barriers accessing care," said AJSoCal CEO Connie Chung Joe.
Chung Joe said staff and volunteers spend a lot of time educating families.
"They have no idea that Covered California or MediCal is there for them," she said.
She even said many people end up paying cash or finding care in other countries in dire medical situations. Many don't realize any emergency could lead to financial ruin. She recalled one uninsured man's desperate situation.
"[He said] my daughter was in a terrible accident. I now have hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills that I owe," said Chung Joe.
AJSoCal began their health access program in 2012.
Through their various community partners, they have been able to connect tens of thousands of clients with health insurance and resources. However, there are still 230,000 AAPI California residents without access to care.
"There's still quite a lot of work to do," Chung Joe said.
During the pandemic, Chung Joe said uninsured rates actually rose in the Korean and Vietnamese communities.
"There's a separate issue that even if they have health care, how do we get them to go to the doctor and actually get the services?," she said.
Sometimes volunteers go with clients to appointments to make sure that this most basic of needs is met.
"Health and wellbeing of the community is first," said Dayal.