Millions in Communities of Color will Benefit from the New Laws Signed Today by Governor Brown
OAKLAND, Calif. – Today, California committed to implementing a major aspect of the national Affordable Care Act (ACA) when Governor Jerry Brown signed into law legislation that will expand the Medi-Cal program. The state’s ethnic health leaders praised the state’s decision to expand the program to include childless adults and those earning up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level ($15,856 for an individual). The expansion will bring health coverage to more than 1.4 million adults, two-thirds (67%) of whom will be from communities of color and one-third will speak English less than very well. The expansion will be fully funded by the federal government for the first three years.
“We applaud Governor Brown and the legislature for making the Medi-Cal expansion a reality today,” said Ellen Wu, Executive Director of CPEHN. “This is the most important expansion of our safety-net in almost 50 years. With this expansion, California is finally moving towards closing the gap in health coverage for communities of color who are disproportionately uninsured.”
Thanks to the new law, nearly everyone making up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level will be eligible for Medi-Cal in 2014. “This is a huge win for our communities,” said Xavier Morales, Executive Director of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California. “Latinos comprise close to half (48%) of those newly eligible for coverage under the expansion. This new law will ensure a majority of our community members can access the health coverage they need. While we celebrate this exciting occasion, we must also continue to protect county safety-net funds that will serve the 3-4 million remaining uninsured.”
The legislation also benefits immigrants and their families by maintaining state-only Medi-Cal for currently eligible individuals and allowing parents and caretakers to stay in Medi-Cal with their children. For newly qualified childless adult immigrants here less than five years, the law will allow them to get coverage through Covered California with the same premiums, cost-sharing, and benefits as in Medi-Cal.
“We applaud the Governor for his commitment to health equity for immigrants in California,” said Kathy Ko Chin, President and CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum. “With these provisions, California is once again a leader in ensuring access to affordable, comprehensive coverage for all communities, including immigrants. We hope our national leaders will follow suit by eliminating the harsh and unfair restrictions on health coverage for recent legal immigrants, who are such a vital part of the fabric of our nation.”
The new law also streamlines eligibility and enrollment and simplifies the renewal process for current Medi-Cal recipients. “Thanks to the Governor and the legislature, signing up for health care will be much simpler and easier for our communities,” said B. Darcel Lee, Executive Director of the California Black Health Network. “Once members of our community have coverage, they will stay covered thanks to these monumental changes in access. It’s great to see these reforms becoming a reality and we will see real results for the health of our communities for years to come.”
The legislation signed today adds mental health and substance use services to the list of benefits Medi-Cal recipients will receive, and extends eligibility for Medi-Cal to foster youth up to age 26. “Our state has shown a commitment to improving health in our state not just by expanding coverage, but by ensuring that those who are eligible can access the services they need,” said James Allen Crouch, President of CPEHN’s Board of Directors and Executive Director of the California Rural Indian Health Board. “We hope this is a sign of things to come and that the state continues to make an effort to increase access to care in all communities. Today will be remembered as a great day, and hopefully it will be just the beginning of a new era of health in California.”
The Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) influences policy, mobilizes communities, and strengthens programs and organizations to improve the health of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.
The California Black Health Network (CBHN) advocates for policies and programs that will improve the health status of people of African descent in California.
The California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN) works to eliminate health disparities by advocating for public policies and sufficient resources to address the health needs of communities of color.
The California Rural Indian Health Board (CRIHB), Inc. is devoted to the needs and interests of the Indians of Rural California.
The Latino Coalition for a Healthy California (LCHC) is committed to initiating and advancing policies that will increase access to health services and build healthy Latino communities in California.