Grateful Patient Able to Care for Ailing Husband Thanks to Mendocino Community Health Clinic and Covered California


January 2015

In addition to providing millions of Americans with health insurance, the Affordable Care Act has also provided many individuals with the freedom to change jobs, to find work that better fits their lifestyle, personality, and talents.  Recently, Mendocino Community Health Clinic (MCHC) helped a patient sign up for coverage through Covered California, allowing her to leave a job she said was killing her.

Rita Karvonen felt trapped working in an atmosphere that made her dread getting up and going in to work each day. She often thought of how it would be to find a new job, but she feared losing her health insurance benefits. Karvonen’s husband suffered a stroke several years ago and became severely disabled, and Karvonen knew that if a health catastrophe happened to her, there would be no one to care for her husband.

“I stayed eight years too long at a job that was slowly killing me, not because of the work I was doing, which I actually loved, but because of the treatment I received by the owner of the company,” she said.

As a long-time medical social worker, Karvonen has more knowledge than many about human health and the effects of stress on the body. She knew that at some point, she would have to leave her job to maintain her own health. In her job, she often felt pressured to work beyond appropriate limits; for example, her supervisor asked Karvonen to return to work within two weeks of having major surgery—against the recommendation of her physician. Karvonen’s supervisor did not allow her to use a computer, causing her work to be incredibly cumbersome, and Karvonen said she suffered almost daily humiliations, which finally led to her decision to quit.

When the Affordable Care Act passed, Karvonen called MCHC and made an appointment with a financial services representative to explore options under the Covered California insurance plans. 

She said she fell in love with the clinic a few years ago. Originally from Switzerland, Karvonen prides herself on being sensible. “This clinic is always clean, and I’ve always gotten the help I need,” she said.  “I don’t want to pay for a fancy practice...At MCHC, the people are wonderful. [My provider] Tom Feiertag is down-to-earth and doesn’t require unnecessary visits,” she explained. She compared this with other medical practices where she said the staff made her feel as though they were doing her a favor to see her and required separate visits for each small request.

With her health care background, Karvonen recognizes and appreciates the fact that to maintain its federal funding, MCHC must meet higher quality standards than private practices. MCHC health centers comply with strict guidelines for care as well as for the condition of their facilities. As with all Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), MCHC regularly submits data about the quality of care.

“I don’t get sick very often,” Karvonen said, “but now I can continue to get the care I need at the clinic.” After signing up for a Covered California plan, Karvonen was able to remain at home, caring for her ailing husband without fear of catastrophic illness for herself.

She speaks in glowing terms of her patient financial services representative, Zenia Leyva-Chou, and the whole MCHC team, and she recommends them to others. “I should have done this a long time ago,” she said.

MCHC offers medical, dental, and behavioral health services to people in Ukiah, Willits and Lakeport. All MCHC health centers accept Medi-Cal, Medicare, Covered California insurance, and more. Mendocino Community Health Clinic is a local non-profit organization providing access to health care for all.

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