Calif. solons spotlight first gains in ‘health care for all’ push
SAN FRANCISCO — Leading “health care for all” proponents in the state legislature, Senator Ricardo Lara (Dem-Bell Gardens) and 18th district Assemblymember Rob Bonta, health committee chair, recently briefed ethnic news media on what have been accomplished so far before their goal of health coverage for all regardless of immigration status is finally won.
“This year we achieved some landmark victories in the fight for health for all, among them the $40 million budget for undocumented immigrant children, the full implementation of which we would be seeking by 2016 to transition to full Medi-Cal coverage,” Lara announced. “We also should be celebrating but we know we are not done yet.”
Lara revealed that many skeptics doubted their effort when they first started and that they were told it was an honorable symbolic gesture but not one that was feasible.
“I am glad to prove them wrong today. Look what we have accomplished in just one year. To be able to cover and expand health care to over 170,000 undocumented kids in California — making us the largest state to create such a big investment to ensure that every child has comprehensive health care — is a tremendous achievement that we should all be very proud of,” beamed Lara.
Lone Filipino American State Assemblymember Rob Bonta couldn’t agree more as he lauded Lara’s efforts.
“Our goal was to create a state where we have a health care coverage for all. I believe health care is a human right, a right not a privilege, for all not for a few,” Bonta stated. ”I am glad to be principal co-author on the assembly side. A lot of our work in the legislature derives from our own experiences.”
Children of immigrants
Both Lara and Bonta are children of immigrant parents.
Lara further explained that the program to provide coverage for the undocumented kids will be launched on April 2016 as an ongoing commitment.
“We still have some work to do to ensure that the launch is successful. My SB4, if passed into law, will help undocumented children currently receiving emergency Medi-Cal to transition quickly to full scope Medi-Cal within 30 days of the program being operational,” Lara explained.
He added, “It will ensure the kids with serious medical conditions to receive specialty care they need at the point of enrolment by making sure that those children with critical needs could see the specialist as soon as possible. We also need the help of our partners, clinics, the hospitals, the community-based organizations to spread the word and enroll as many children as possible throughout the state.”
Fight for SB4
The second piece of SB4, Lara continued, directs the state to apply for a federal waiver to allow undocumented Californians to buy insurance with their own money through Covered California. Around 390,000 undocumented people will be eligible to purchase their own health care if the waiver is granted.
“There is no rational reason to deny anyone from buying their own insurance through the state exchange, which is a discriminatory federal policy that does not reflect California’s values.”
Lara pointed out that almost 70 percent of undocumented Californians live in mixed status families and one in six children in California lives with undocumented parents.
Lara also bared their strategy in the next days to reach their goal:
- Implement the $40 million health for all kids budget as signed by the governor this year; pass SB4 this year to allow children to transition quickly to comprehensive MediCal;
- Ask for a federal waiver to make California the first state to allow undocumented folks to pay into the system without any state subsidy, and finally;
- To recommit to ensuring health for all through SB10, which is already in the State Assembly, to expand full-scope Medi-Cal coverage to include individuals 19 years of age and older, who are otherwise eligible for those benefits but for their immigration status, if sufficient funding is available, or for limited scope Medi-Cal benefits if funding for full-scope benefits is not available.
Assembly health committee chair Bonta spelled out three more steps before their goal is finally reached – appropriations, assembly floor and then governor’s desk for signing.
“I am very optimistic that SB$ will pass the appropriations committee. This early we are building off the $40 million for our undocumented children for MediCal, which is a huge success, huge unprecedented breakthrough, and I think we have the momentum to deal with the odds. We have a lot of support and the momentum I believe will carry us through to the governor’s desk to get his signature,” stated an optimistic Bonta
While both Lara and Bonta are upbeat, they nevertheless called on the community to help in lobbying their representatives and to contact the governor to add their voices.
“It is important for the Asian Pacific Islanders and Latino community to work together to ensure that we continue the path for progressive policies in the State that continues to lead the nation,” Lara stressed.
Lara criticized attempts by some politicians to paint undocumented immigrants as criminals and bad elements. “Immigrants are here to work, to contribute to raise a family, to build the next generation of California,” he argued.
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