California Forum

Rural, urban, with or without papers, expanding this program would bring #Health4All

Supporting the California Endowment's #Health4All campaign, Andrea Vega Torres applauds while listening to a speaker during a workshop held by the Sacramento County supervisors to consider options for restoring health care assistance to undocumented immigrants, Wednesday, March 18, 2015.
Supporting the California Endowment's #Health4All campaign, Andrea Vega Torres applauds while listening to a speaker during a workshop held by the Sacramento County supervisors to consider options for restoring health care assistance to undocumented immigrants, Wednesday, March 18, 2015.

At first look, the city of Long Beach and county of Fresno could not seem any more different. In rural areas like Fresno, where agriculture drives a significant part of the economy, farmworkers labor to feed the rest of the state and the country. And in high density areas like Long Beach, immigrants power industry and small businesses that benefit from global trade.

But whether you’re a farmworker or an urban worker, there’s one struggle many people in our districts share: the human cost of being undocumented and uninsured.

One in 10 California workers is undocumented, and one in six children in our state has a parent who is undocumented. Ensuring healthcare coverage for all Californians not only strengthens the health of our state’s workforce, but will move the entire state forward.

One in 10 California workers is undocumented, and one in six children in our state has a parent who is undocumented. Ensuring healthcare coverage for all Californians not only strengthens the health of our state’s workforce, but will move the entire state forward.

Immigrants play a vital role in all aspects of California’s social, economic, and cultural life. They are our neighbors, family members, community members, and coworkers. Just like other Californians, they should be able to access a routine check-up with a doctor, medical care when they get sick, and affordable follow-up care to prevent treatable conditions from becoming life-threatening.

Currently, undocumented adults are explicitly and unjustly locked out of healthcare due to their immigration status. In a matter of weeks, California legislators will have a decisive opportunity to reverse that cruel and counterproductive fact.

Health4All Adults is two parallel legislative proposals (SB 974 and AB 2965) that would remove an eligibility barrier to comprehensive Medi-Cal for over 1 million low-income undocumented adults. This would expand access to routine and preventative care for undocumented adults to avoid costly and life-threatening visits to the emergency room.

In a region like Fresno, which faces steep poverty and lacks local clinics with specialty care, immigrant residents often have to drive for hours to seek care. This leads them to hold off or completely forgo care, relying on the emergency room as a last resort.

The same is true in Long Beach, home to the largest population of Cambodian immigrants outside Southeast Asia. Many Cambodian Americans fled their country after the disastrous genocide of the 1970s and the Communist dictatorship that followed, and they continue to suffer from high rates of depression and post-traumatic disorders – as well as high rates of uninsurance.

It is much more sensible to provide access to life-saving preventive care than to keep vulnerable populations one emergency room visit away from financial ruin. Our state is stronger when everyone has access to healthcare, regardless of immigration status.

This is evident in the success of Health4All Kids, which passed in 2015 and has since implemented near-universal coverage for children in California under age 19. Through the implementation of Health4All Kids, more than 218,000 kids have received comprehensive care. The next step for California is to uplift undocumented parents, workers, and adults who care for their families as well as our state.

From rural to urban, immigrants are part of California’s heart and soul. Now is the time to deepen our commitment to the values of inclusion and opportunity, which will move the Golden State forward. Our communities are healthier when we invest in our state, and California should lead in this to ensure everyone has the opportunity to thrive

Dr. Joaquin Arambula, a Fresno Democrat, represents California’s 31st Assembly District and Ricardo Lara represents Los Angeles and Long Beach in California’s 33rd Senate District. Reach them at assemblymember.arambula@assembly.ca.gov and senator.lara@senate.ca.

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