The #Health4All Effort: Delayed But Not Defeated

Consumer, community, and health organizations expressed disappointment that the Senate Appropriations Committee held SB1005, the #Health4All bill by Senator Ricardo Lara to provide affordable coverage for all California’s remaining uninsured, including undocumented immigrants.

Bills held in Appropriations Committee rarely get mentioned, but both Chairman Kevin De Leon and Senator Ricardo Lara took the unusual step of making statements, recognizing the outpouring of support for SB1005, and stating that the question of advancing this goal is not a question of “if, but when.” They stated they wanted to give the Senator and stakeholders the opportunity to continue to work on financing.

The effort to cover all Californians is delayed, but not defeated. With all the progress California has made under the Affordable Care Act to expand coverage, the next crucial step is to include all Californians, regardless of immigration status. The urgency of covering everyone, for those families and for the health system we all rely on, isn’t going away, The delay of this bill means counties and safety-net providers will need to step up to meet the needs, and we will press that point. We cannot have another open enrollment period where we have to turn away so many of our friends and neighbors because they lack certain paperwork. California’s health system is stronger when everyone has access to care and coverage.

The Senate Health Committee approved SB1005(Lara), and the bill was held in Senate Appropriations Committee on Friday. The bill would have expanded state-only Medi-Cal and set up a “mirror marketplace” parallel to Covered California, all providing the same help the ACA provides, but to those exlcuded from the federal law. A recent University of California study showed only modest costs for the bill–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 is less than what the state is taking from county safety net that was intended for the remaining uninsured. This study shows that this goal is within reach, and we will continue to make this a top priority.