Thousands of undocumented children have now gained access to healthcare coverage in California. That is thanks to Health for All Kids, a law authored by Senator Ricardo Lara (Democrat-Bell Gardens) that expands Medi-Cal eligibility to all children, regardless of immigration status.
The law allocated $40 million for the first year and $132 million for the following years. About 170,000 undocumented children will benefit, starting May 2016. This makes California the state with the largest immigrant population to offer healthcare coverage to low-income undocumented children, according to the senator. Medi-Cal covers children’s medical, oral and vision care.
“This is a tremendous victory that will send a message across the country that says compassion should always trump bigotry when we’re talking about our immigrant population,” said Lara in a written statement. “But we’re not done. We still have work to do to cover the remaining uninsured. This major victory for the health of our state is only a down payment on achieving true health for all.”
Healthcare advocates have praised the new law.
“The bill is another step and additional momentum toward the goal of health for all Californians, regardless of immigration status,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a healthcare consumer advocacy coalition. “At the state and county level, Californians increasingly recognize that our health system is improved when everyone has access to primary and preventive care, rather than just episodic and emergency care.”
Reshma Shamasunder, executive director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, said the legislation helps families with undocumented children and also bring the state closer to expanding health care to undocumented adults who remain excluded from care. “No one should suffer or die from a treatable condition, no matter where they were born,” she said.
The new law is part of the Health for All Legislative Package, a set of bills aimed at increasing health care coverage to all California residents, including the undocumented population.
Next in line is SB 10 to help adult immigrants. Already moving through the legislature, the bill would request a federal waiver so that immigrants can purchase health care through Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange under Obamacare.
Currently, undocumented immigrants are not allowed to obtain insurance through the state or federal health exchanges, forcing them to pay out of pocket, forgo medical care they cannot afford and rely on hospital emergency rooms as a last resort.
Senator Lara was elected in 2012 to represent the 33rd Senate District, which includes the cities and communities of Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Lakewood, Long Beach, Lynwood, Maywood, Paramount, Signal Hill, South Gate, South Los Angeles, Vernon, and Walnut Park.