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ROC-MD in Los Angeles to Provide Health Care to Restaurant Workers

The Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC-United) launched ROC-MD recently, a health care cooperative to provide access to services for low-wage, uninsured restaurant workers, many of whom are undocumented.[1]  ROC-United was formed in New York post-September 11, 2011 to improve wages and working conditions for low-wage restaurant workforce, and has grown to eight chapters throughout the nation.[2]   With ROC-MD initiated in Los Angeles in fall of 2011, the local chapter (ROC-LA) estimates that 75,000 restaurant workers locally do not have access to health coverage due to immigration status.[3]

ROC-MD offers preventive, primary care to restaurant workers who are: 1) Undocumented; 2) Legal immigrants; or 3) Otherwise uninsured.[4]   St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, a FQHC with clinic sites throughout South L.A., provides services including annual physicals, urgent care for common illnesses, basic dental care, low-cost medications, and up to seven sessions with a therapist.[5]  Workers must pay a monthly fee of $25 to enroll. [6]   Grant funds from Kaiser Permanente Community Benefits and The California Wellness Foundation are covering the first three months of costs for undocumented workers who do not qualify for other programs such as Medi-Cal and Healthy Way LA.[7]   ROC-LA has informed restaurants and their workers about ROC-MD through door-to-door outreach in its target area of Koreatown and South Los Angeles.[8]   Workers must attend an enrollment and information session to join.  St. John’s has set aside appointment slots for ROC-MD patients to ensure access to services.[9]

Approximately 100 individuals have enrolled in ROC-MD as of May 2012. [10]    St. John’s has connected workers’ family members to health coverage programs such as Medi-Cal and Healthy Families, which assists in offsetting the cost of care.[11]  Many workers are presenting with burns, cuts, and other workplace injuries.[12]   With plans to initiate the program in other cities that have ROC chapters such as Miami, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York City, administrators have discussed the possibility of applying for support through the ACA’s Consumer Oriented and Operated Plan (CO-OP) $3.8 billion loan program. [13] The CO-OP program will support nonprofit, member-governed plans in order to create delivery and payment models that may compete in states’ individual and small group health insurance markets.[14]   Program planners will evaluate ROC-MD as enrollment increases to inform future directions.[15]


[1] Restaurant Opportunities Center United, Membership and Leadership Development: ROC-MD, accessed at http://rocunited.org/our-work/membership-leadership-development/roc-md/,

[2] Restaurant Opportunities Center United. About Us, accessed at http://rocunited.org/our-work/membership-leadership-development/roc-md/.

[3] Gorman A, L.A. Program Offers Healthcare for Illegal Restaurant Workers, Los Angeles Times, May 3, 2012.

[4] ROC-MD –health care cooperative for restaurant workers, accessed at http://roc-la.blogspot.com/2011/09/roc-md-health-care-cooperative-for.html.

[5] Ibid.

[6] This fee includes $20 for ROC-MD and $5 for ROC-LA membership dues.  See Restaurant Opportunities Center of Los Angeles, ROC-MD –health care cooperative for restaurant workers, accessed at http://roc-la.blogspot.com/2011/09/roc-md-health-care-cooperative-for.html.

[7] Personal communication with Cathy Dang, Restaurant Opportunities Center of Los Angeles, May 15, 2012.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Personal communication with Jim Mangia, St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, May 7, 2012.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Personal communication with Cathy Dang, Restaurant Opportunities Center of Los Angeles, May 15, 2012.

[14] Gray BH, Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans (CO-OPs): An Interim Assessment of Their Prospects, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, August 2011, accessed at http://www.rwjf.org/files/research/72784qscoopfullreport201108.pdf.

[15] Personal communication with Jim Mangia, St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, May 7, 2012.

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