When Randy Seriguchi moved to California from the East Coast last summer, the 30-year-old lawyer took a short-term job with a nonprofit education policy group in Sacramento. While the position didn't include health insurance, Seriguchi calculated that he could go without coverage until finding a job with benefits. He certainly didn't expect that he would develop a severe sinus infection just as his temporary job ended and his income dried up. He tried to tough it out with over-the-counter remedies, but the infection continued to get worse.
"October was one of the worst months of my life," he said. "I had constant facial pain, headaches, and pressure on the right side of my face." On Halloween, Seriguchi descended into delirium. Half his face was paralyzed. His money worries, which had kept him away from doctors that month, finally yielded to the pain and fear, and he went to an emergency room expecting bad news about his health and worse news about how much the care was going to cost. He was shocked to learn from an admitting clerk that he was eligible for emergency enrollment in Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program for low-income residents, and that there would be no big bills. Doctors ordered a CT scan, diagnosed Bell's palsy (a temporary paralysis of his face caused by damaged nerves), and prescribed medicines to reduce the inflammation and pain.