Big Benefits for a Small Investment…

Consumer, community, and health organizations heralded and pointed to a new University of California report that details the relatively modest costs and big benefits of SB1005, the #Health4All bill by Senator Ricardo Lara to provide affordable coverage for all California’s remaining uninsured, including undocumented immigrants.

Here’s the Policy Brief, and the University of California’s press release. As they report: more than 1.4 million undocumented Californians are predicted to remain uninsured because they are ineligible for Affordable Care Act coverage options due to their immigration status. State policymakers are considering a proposal to expand comprehensive Medi-Cal coverage to all low-income Californians. The authors predict the increase in Medi-Cal enrollment and net state spending under the proposal, primarily using the California Simulation of Insurance Markets (CalSIM) model. Predicted budget offsets are also estimated. The analysis finds that an investment equivalent to 2 percent of state Medi-Cal spending would expand preventive and routine health services to more than 690,000 undocumented Californians in 2015.

California should be proud of the progress we have made under the Affordable Care Act to expand coverage, but it’s up to the state to cover the remaining uninsured. This study shows how much we are within reach of providing access to coverage to all Californians, without regard to income or immigration status. California’s health system is stronger when everyone has access to care and coverage. It’s more efficient and effective to provide access to primary, preventive care than to treat illnesses after they develop. Just as we are all better off if all children can go to school, and just as California decided that our highways are safer for all if undocumented drivers were included in the system to get tested and get licenses, our health system is more stable and strong for all if undocumented patients are covered and in systems of care.

Immigrants are central to our communities and economy–they need to be fully included in our health system, too. These California individuals and families would otherwise remain uninsured, living sicker, dying younger, and being one accident away from financial ruin. This is a way to invest in prevention and primary care, and to improve our health system for a healthier community and lower costs in the long term for everybody. It’s harder to steer a boat with folks hanging off the sides of the ship. We need to continue the momentum of health reform of California’s successful enrollment efforts. Many communities hold enrollment fairs but found many were not eligible for help under the federal rules. Many California families are mixed-status, where help is available to some but not all–but that then discourages some families from getting the care and coverage they need. Opening the door to all Californians means its more likely that those already eligible take advantage of the benefits, bringing more federal dollars into California.

The Senate Health Committee approved SB1005(Lara), and the bill is now pending a decision in Senate Appropriations Committee on Friday. The study shows that a modest investment–2% of current Medi-Cal spending–in the California budget this year could go a long way, expanding coverage by 7%. The amount needed would be less than the expected revenue from all the new federal dollars coming in from the ACA; the amount needed is less than the state has budgeted to reallocate from the county safety net for the remaining uninsured. This study shows that this goal is within reach, this year.