- Felicia Matlosz
(SACRAMENTO, CA) – Following today’s historic organizational session, Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula will introduce legislation to expand Medi-Cal coverage to those who are income-eligible but currently excluded due to their immigration status. The #Health4All campaign waged by health and immigrant rights advocates in recent years has successfully gained coverage for children and young adults up to age 26. Assemblymember Arambula’s bill would remove the exclusion altogether and ensure health care access for all Californians.
The bill authored by Assemblymember Arambula, Chairman 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 bill will receive its official designated number later today from the Chief Clerk of the Assembly.)
Said Assemblymember Arambula: “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.”
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low-income undocumented seniors by removing immigration status as an eligibility exclusion, but that proposal was withdrawn in his May revision because of the budget crisis triggered by COVID-19. The California Legislature adopted language to prioritize #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.
Assemblymember David Chiu, outgoing chair of the California Asian and Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus and Joint Author of the measure, said: "There has never been a more urgent time to ensure all of our communities have access to health care. As COVID disproportionately impacts communities of color across California, it's more important than ever that our immigrant communities can get the care they need."
"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," said Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California. "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."
"This public health emergency shows how deeply our health is connected to that of our friends, neighbors, and especially our elders, who are most at risk," said Cynthia Buiza, Executive Director of the California Immigrant Policy Center. "We call on Governor Newsom to recognize our shared humanity. He must take action to protect the health of every Californian now, especially undocumented seniors."
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. And, 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.