Since 2014, California has reduced its number of uninsured residents from 7 million to 3 million people thanks to implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and additional state reforms. Despite this progress, the ACA explicitly and unjustly excludes undocumented immigrants from health coverage through federally funded programs, including Medi-Cal. The Health4All Coalition was formed by California Immigrant Policy Center and Health Access California to advocate for removing these exclusions based on immigration status.
The coalition’s years of advocacy have resulted in a number of wins. In 2016 California invested in providing full-scope Medi-Cal to all low-income children, regardless of their immigration status. Since then, “Health4All Kids” has resulted in the successful enrollment of over 250,000 undocumented children in life-saving healthcare. In 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a state budget plan that funded a further expansion of Medi-Cal to include low-income undocumented young adults ages 19-25, which will be effective on January 1, 2020.
However, older undocumented adults—our parents and siblings, friends and neighbors, taxpayers and workers in our economy—remain locked out of comprehensive healthcare, making them the largest population in California with no health insurance. Any effort towards universal coverage, whether in California or nationally, will not be successful until everyone, regardless of status, has access to care.
The #Health4All Campaign continues to champion this cause.
California is home to 2.3 million undocumented immigrants who make up about 6% of the population and nearly 1 in 10 of the state’s workers. Undocumented Californians generate $63 billion in government revenue and $263 billion toward the state’s formidable GDP every year through labor and taxes. They are overrepresented in jobs deemed “essential,” and wage theft and exploitation are unfortunate realities for many.
Unfortunately, California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s state budget proposal is not adequately responsive to this demographic picture of our state. Our undocumented neighbors are deeply embedded in our economy, schools and communities and the cultural fabric of our state – Californians by every measure. That’s why we need bold legislation like Senate Bill 56, introduced by state Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, and Assembly Bill 4, introduced by Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula, a Democrat from Fresno, that ends the systematic exclusion of low-income undocumented adults from Medi-Cal, especially seniors.
Last year, Newsom included Medi-Cal for undocumented seniors in his proposed budget. But when the pandemic and ensuing economic downturn hit, Newsom withdrew his proposal, leaving a high-risk group – 65 and older – to fend for themselves without comprehensive health care.
California must stop excluding our most vulnerable community members from access to health care. This is even more urgent during the coronavirus pandemic, which is disproportionately harming immigrant communities and older adults. The state set up temporary programs for the uninsured to access COVID-19 treatment, but this barely scratches the surface. For seniors, if they are infected with the virus, it may be too late. Undocumented seniors may have gone decades without a check-up and may have unknown chronic conditions and need preventative treatment and medication for all of their health issues.
In a moment of reckoning with racial injustice and structural inequity, California has a clear choice.
Comprehensive health insurance makes good public health sense in the face of a rapidly spreading virus. It makes us all safer and healthier.
We won’t be successful in our fight against the pandemic unless we ensure equitable access to care for ALL Californians.
Join us this campaign season to urge your legislators to pass #Health4All this year, expanding access to health care for ALL Californians, especially our seniors!