One of the benefits of being a Sacramento Covered partner is a program that places navigators in hospital emergency rooms to help patients enroll in health insurance and access primary care providers.
Navigator Raul Salazar began working at UC Davis Medical Center this month and already feels right at home.
Part of that comfort stems from experience. The Bay Area native is a graduate of UC Davis, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in neurobiology, physiology and behavior and participated in a post-baccalaureate program that prepares students for medical school.
The job also makes use of Salazar's passion for helping patients leave the emergency room with a plan for accessing community resources, including county clinics and Federally Qualified Health Centers, for the full range of their health care needs.
Salazar first learned the value of his role three years ago as a new navigator in the emergency room of another hospital system. He was interpreting a physician’s straightforward instructions about diabetes medication for a Spanish-speaking patient, and the confused look he got in return made him realize something: The patient had no idea he had diabetes.
“I ended up talking with him just like I would talk with a family member about diabetes,” Salazar said. “There are huge gaps in many communities, especially immigrant and homeless communities, in getting diagnosed, treated and monitored for chronic diseases, which really shouldn’t happen in an emergency room.”
Salazar helped the patient connect with resources for health insurance and make an appointment with a primary care physician. Later, he reached out and reminded him about that appointment.
“I made sure he didn’t feel alone once he was discharged,” Salazar said.
Since then, Salazar has helped hundreds of eligible but uninsured patients sign up for coverage ― usually straight Medi-Cal or a Covered California plan ― and understand the details of that coverage. Often they don’t know, for instance, that their benefits can include transportation resources, 24/7 nurse advice lines, urgent care and other services that can reduce unnecessary emergency room visits.
“A lot of people think the emergency room is their only option,” Salazar said. “I’m here to help make them aware of additional resources and how to utilize them.”
Sacramento Covered is a local nonprofit organization that connects individuals and families with health coverage, primary and preventive care, and other services needed to live a healthy life. Sacramento Covered has been UC Davis Health partner in improving access to primary care in our region since July 2015.