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Oliver’s Story

"With school, work, taking care of my family, and worrying about making ends meet; I often feel stressed. Worrying about how to pay for this bill only added to that stress.”


When health care reform became a reality in January 2014, millions of Californians sought to enroll in Medi-Cal. Unfortunately, the applications for hundreds of thousands of eligible applicants were filed and were not processed, some for nearly a year, leaving families and individuals in medical limbo. Oliver is one of them. As a married father of two girls, he has managed to support his family as a waiter and through other part-time work, all while going to school with the goal of becoming an engineer. But like many, he did not receive health benefits from his employer, who told Oliver that he would be fired if he didn’t get his own coverage. He applied for Medi-Cal for him and his family but did not hear from the County or the State for months.

During this period, Oliver sustained a hand injury that landed him in the emergency room. Although the damage was severe, he asked himself whether he should stay to be treated. He wondered, “Can I live with the pain?” Knowing he couldn’t and that it could affect his ability to work, he remained and was treated in the hospital, hopeful that his application would be processed. It wasn’t, and two months later, he received a bill from the hospital for $1,841. This was an amount he could not pay on his monthly income.“With school, work, taking care of my family, and worrying about making ends meet; I often feel stressed. Worrying about how to pay for this bill only added to that stress.”

It took 10 months for Oliver and his family to receive an approval notification for their Medi-Cal application. He didn’t not want other families to go through the same difficulties so he joined in support of Rivera v. Douglas, which resulted in a major victory for hundreds of thousands of Californians whose applications must now be decided on in 45 days. Plaintiffs were represented by Western Center, Bay Area Legal Aid, Central California Legal Services, Multiforum Advocacy Solutions, Neighborhood Legal Services, and National Health Law Project.