It was really exciting to see California front and center this year at Families USA’s 2016 Health Action Conference. Sometimes when we are entrenched in the work, we often forget to reflect on our successes and the tremendous grit, collaboration, and leadership that go into it all. We were humbled as Dr. Bob Ross, President and CEO of The California Endowment, and Marielena Hicapie, Executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center, reminded us just how far California has come but also how much more work there still is to do. Later, we were absolutely thrilled to see our colleague and friend, Reshma Shamasunder, former Executive Director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, honored as the Health Equity Advocate of the Year.
As Covered California’s third open enrollment period fast approaches, a new report sheds some light on the state’s remaining uninsured and finds that roughly half are eligible for either Medi-Cal or subsidized coverage through Covered California. Earlier this week, the Kaiser Family Foundation released New Estimates of Eligibility for ACA Coverage among the Uninsured, which looks at the over 32 million remaining uninsured across the country after the first two years of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) coverage expansions.
Nationally, the report shows the devastating impact of many states’ refusals to expand Medicaid. Roughly one-tenth of the remaining uninsured in the U.S. – over 3 million individuals – would fall into the coverage gap and could have been covered had their states decided to expand Medicaid as stipulated in the ACA.
But the report also looks at the remaining uninsured at a state-by-state level, and with this analysis we see that over half (53%) of California’s more than 3.8 million uninsured are eligible for either Medi-Cal (37%) or for subsidized coverage in Covered California (16%). These numbers show that while we have cut our state’s uninsured population nearly in half over the past three years, we still have an opportunity to continue this dramatic improvement. With another open enrollment period on the horizon, it is imperative that there are sufficient outreach and enrollment efforts, particularly in low-income areas, communities of color, and Limited English Proficient populations to maximize participation by the eligible population.
Today, Governor Jerry Brown made it easier for all children to enroll in affordable health coverage, regardless of immigration status, when he signed Senate Bill 4, authored by Senator Ricardo Lara. Under the measure, eligible children currently receiving limited health care services will be automatically enrolled in full-scope Medi-Cal coverage in 2016. This is a victory for all kids, and will serve as a good first step as we continue our work to expand coverage to undocumented immigrant adults.
However, health is about more than just coverage. Earlier this week, the Governor vetoed Assembly Bill 176, authored by Assemblymember Rob Bonta. This bill would have required several state agencies to use more detailed ethnic categories when collecting demographic data for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AAs and NHPIs). This data is essential for identifying inequities within AA and NHPI communities, of which there are more than 50 in California. Existing data sources, including the California Health Interview Survey, show disparate rates of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and obesity among diverse AA and NHPI communities. Combining all of these unique subgroups into one data category only serves to mask the underlying inequities.
CPEHN remains committed to Health for All and will continue to support policies that require more detailed data collection to help us fully understand the health needs of our communities.
When we talk about immigration, we don’t talk enough about the health of our families. As we work to improve the lives of immigrants and their families, we must remove barriers to health care and ensure that everyone receives the care they need. Our country will be stronger when all communities – regardless of immigration status – have access to care and the same opportunity at a healthy future.
While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has expanded health care coverage options for some immigrants, immigration status continues to stand as the major social determinant impacting health and hampering the progress of immigrant communities in unnecessary ways. The report includes the following recommendations to promote public health and economic well-being:
When I first began organizing as an undocumented student on campus at Cal State Fullerton, my biggest challenges was building up my skill-set so that I could effectively run campaigns on my own. When I attended my first training at the Social Justice Summit at Cal State Fullerton in 2006, I saw the power of joining a passion for justice with helpful tools and advocacy skills that move pro-immigrant policies.
Today, I find myself a more seasoned organizer, thanks in part to the help from training spaces like the Social Justice Summit. When I reflect on milestone fights, such as the hard-won AB 60 Driver’s License bill, the California TRUST Act, and others, I notice a connecting thread between those that made it possible. From the undocumented pre-med student activist to the community organizer, not only do we have a fierce passion for working towards a future where immigrant communities live brighter, healthier, safer lives, but we are also committed to developing supportive spaces that build a stronger and more inclusive movement.
Whether it is through up-to-date information, face time with allies, or sharing helpful strategies, it is critical that we be involved in spaces for knowledge exchange between advocates of diverse levels of experience and from different walks of life. This is why the California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC) has committed to creating such spaces through our biannual regional trainings.
Welcome to This Week in Equity Engagement on Twitter (TWEET) for the week of August 24, 2015. We have a lot of great stuff from social media this week, so let’s get right to it:
The Health for All movement to expand coverage to California’s undocumented immigrants took another step forward as Senator Ricardo Lara’s SB 4 passed out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee this week and will now be heard on the Assembly floor.
Over the past two years, California’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) coverage expansions has resulted in the biggest increase in access to affordable health care in a generation. Today, thanks to a new Field Poll sponsored by the California Wellness Foundation, we know that a large majority of voters in the state see the ACA as a success. Further, there is significant support for expanding access to coverage to undocumented immigrants, who are currently left out of the ACA.
Health care advocates credited the implementation of the Affordable Care Act as contributing to the shift in sensibilities.
“Californians acknowledge that the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of services is working,” said Sarah de Guia... “People understand what it’s like to be uninsured (and then get coverage). Now there’s this growing movement of ‘We need to finish the job.’”
Earlier today, the California Wellness Foundation hosted a hearing in Sacramento to discuss the results of the survey. The event featured a presentation by Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo followed by a panel including de Guia, Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Diana Dooley, Covered California Director Peter Lee, and Juan Esparza Loera, editor of Vida en el Valle.
DiCamillo gave a detailed overview of the results of the poll, with accompanying charts. The panel after his presentation went into more detail about the findings. Some highlights included:
This week, Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families and The Children’s Partnership released a new paper outlining how to get ready for big coverage opportunities in California. It highlights opportunities that will provide coverage to more than a million people in California’s immigrant families when immigration relief takes effect.
But as spelled out in the paper, Immigration Relief for Parents and Youth = Whole Family Health Coverage in California, while we wait for some of the immigration relief-related coverage options in California to become available, there is a lot that advocates and community organizations can do right now to cover eligible children and youth in immigrant families. Here is the rundown of coverage opportunities “now playing” in California and also “coming soon” that could get many more children, youth, and parents in immigrant families covered.
Now Playing: More than 400,000 children in immigrant families are already eligible for full scope or state-funded Medi-Cal but are not yet enrolled. It is not too soon to roll up our sleeves and get to work on covering them. Here’s the breakdown:
Californians have a number of reasons to celebrate these days, particularly the victory of Health4All Kids. But even with this accomplishment, there is still work to be done to make sure that Health4All becomes a reality.
In the 1960’s, President Lyndon Johnson kicked off the original Health For All efforts with the War on Poverty. It gave us Medicare, Medicaid, and helped us establish a nation-wide network of community clinics and health centers, whose mission was to provide care to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay.
Despite the odds, obstacles and budget cuts, these determined non-profit health centers endured, and in fact, they grew. Passionately dedicated to their mission, they built a system of health care one patient and one community at a time.
Today, community clinics and health centers, referred to as CaliforniaHealth+, operate more than 1,100 health centers and serve more than 5.6 million patients each year - that’s 1 in 7 Californians! They live at the heart of our communities and provide care in a way that respects the culture, tradition, and values of those they serve.