As COVID-19 Crisis Continues, #Health4All Bills Introduced; Goal is to Cover All Vulnerable Californias Regardless of Immigration Status

As the first session of the 2021-2022 legislative year convened today, California legislators Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula and state Senator Maria Elena Durazo introduced legislation to expand Medi-Cal to cover those who are income-eligible but currently excluded due to their immigration status. his is the latest step for the #Health4All campaign of health and immigrant rights advocates that have in recent years successfully covered children and young adults up to age 26. AB 4 (Arambula) would remove the exclusion altogether and SB 56 (Durazo) prioritizes an expansion to seniors, 65 and over, who are most at risk in the current COVID-19 crisis.
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For Immediate Release: Tuesday, December 8, 2020

CONTACT:

Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782

Yvonne Vasquez, Communications Associate, yvasquez@health-access.org, 916-407-7078

AS COVID-19 CRISIS CONTINUES,  #HEALTH4ALL BILLS INTRODUCED;

GOAL IS TO COVER ALL VULNERABLE CALIFORNIANS REGARDLESS OF IMMIGRATION STATUS

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA –  As the first session of the 2021-2022 legislative year convened today, California legislators Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula and state Senator Maria Elena Durazo introduced legislation to expand Medi-Cal to cover those who are income-eligible but currently excluded due to their immigration status. his is the latest step for the #Health4All campaign of health and immigrant rights advocates that have in recent years successfully covered children and young adults up to age 26. AB 4 (Arambula) would remove the exclusion altogether and SB 56 (Durazo) prioritizes an expansion to seniors, 65 and over, who are most at risk in the current COVID-19 crisis.

AB 4, authored by Assemblymember Arambula, chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, proposes the goal of expanding Medi-Cal to all Californians under 138% of the poverty level, without any exclusion based on birthplace or immigration status.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it cruelly clear that everyone in California must have access to health care, including undocumented adults. We’ve seen what happens when people are excluded from medical services. COVID-19 has mercilessly hit hardest our communities of color, especially those who work in our fields and in other essential jobs to keep our economy and health care delivery system going during this crisis. California has a legacy of expanding health care to our most vulnerable populations, and this bill will continue in this vein. I am pleased that Governor Newsom’s administration understands the urgent need to expand Medi-Cal services, and I know that this bill will help us meet our goal to expand full-scope Medi-Cal to all Californians as quickly as possible. Now is the time to achieve equity in health care access because while we know that time is of the essence, we also know that the health of each of us depends on the health of all of us.” said Assemblymember Arambula

SB 56, authored by Senator Durazo, focuses on expand Medi-Cal to all income-eligible seniors, regardless of immigration status. Complementing the coverage already in place for undocumented children and young adults, this proposal prioritizes a particularly vulnerable population, yet one that is explicitly excluded from coverage.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated the impacts that lack of basic healthcare coverage has had on the state’s largest remaining uninsured population, undocumented Californians.  90% of the undocumented immigrants are uninsured and primarily Latino. According to the Department of Public Health’s findings associating reported COVID-19 cases and deaths by race and ethnicity, Latinos account for 58% of the state’s cases and 48% of the state’s deaths from COVID-19. Latino seniors  are  39% of the state’s COVI-19 cases for people 65 and over, and 41% of the deaths in that same age demographic. As we continue to deal with COVID-19 pandemic, bracing for a dark winter and second wave of cases, it is critical that we do everything we can to extend critical life  services to all California residents, regardless of immigration status. I am proud to serve side by side with the Health4All campaign as we continue to push for universal health care coverage for all. In the midst of this global pandemic, I will continue to work to achieve health as a basic human right for every Californian.  Wealthy and insured Californians can’t not stop the COVID 19 virus from spreading—only quality healthcare for all will make us all safer.” said Senator Durazo

In January 2020, Governor Newsom proposed as part of the 2020-2021 budget to provide full-scope Medi-Cal to an estimated 27,000 low-income undocumented seniors by removing immigration status as an eligibility exclusion, but that proposal was withdrawn in his May Revision in light of the budget crisis. The California legislature adopted language prioritizing #Health4All Seniors when funds became available. With the revised budget estimates and the continued COVID-19 crisis, health and immigrant advocates will continue to push for early adoption of this proposal, while continuing to seek the commitment to cover all Californians.

“The pandemic has only increased the urgency to expand Medi-Cal to all income-eligible Californians, regardless of immigration status. Our health system is stronger and we are all healthier if everyone has access to affordable health care. Lack of access to comprehensive healthcare for the undocumented will exacerbate racial and ethnic health disparities communities already experience,” said Ronald Coleman, Policy Director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “California should not delay, and in fact should expedite covering undocumented seniors, the most at-risk population that is currently excluded from coverage. Most of these seniors have contributed to California over a lifetime of working, raising their families, and paying their taxes, and they should get the care and coverage they need.”

California’s undocumented immigrants are out on the frontlines as essential workers despite not having access to health care coverage. It is immoral for us to keep asking them to put their lives, their family’s lives, and their community’s health on the lines without giving them basic benefits and protections in return,” said Orville Thomas, Director of Government Affairs for the California Immigrant Policy Center. “Our state cannot truly recover financially from COVID-19 if the workers fueling that economy aren’t allowed to recover physically. We cannot be a California for all if we only continue to provide healthcare for some.”

Since 2013, the #Health4All coalition, comprised of immigrant rights activists, health care advocates, and community members from across California, has advocated for expansion of health care to all Californians, regardless of immigration status. As undocumented immigrants are unfairly excluded from federal programs and financial assistance for coverage through the ACA, the campaign seeks to expand coverage to undocumented Californians, who are a key part of our community and economy and should be fully included in our health system as well. In 2016 California expanded full-scope Medi-Cal to all low-income children, regardless of their immigration status. In 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a state budget plan that funded a further expansion of Medi-Cal to include income-eligible undocumented young adults ages 19-25, which started in January 2020.
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