The California State Senate began its floor session today passing SB 4, the Health for All Act authored by Senator Ricardo Lara, on a bipartisan 28-11 vote. The vote marked a great step toward achieving access to health care for all Californians, regardless of immigration status.
In a press release issued shortly after the vote, Senator Lara commended his colleagues for giving members of one of the state’s most vulnerable populations a better chance to live healthy lives:
“Today’s vote is a transformational and decisive step forward on the path to achieving health for all. Over the past year I’ve worked to draft a bill that is realistic, balanced and fiscally prudent, while arriving at our goal of expanding access to health care for some of our most vulnerable communities. That’s what we’ve achieved with SB4 – allow undocumented Californians to purchase health insurance through a waiver, cover all children and establish a capped enrollment program for adults.”
With just two weeks remaining until the Legislature’s June 15 deadline for passing a budget bill, state policymakers are at odds over whether — and by how much — California should boost funding for an array of health and human services in 2015-16, the fiscal year that begins this coming July 1.
Relying on projections from the Legislative Analyst’s Office, lawmakers assume that the state will receive about $3 billion more in revenues in 2015-16 than Governor Brown estimates. In separate budget plans adopted last month, the Assembly and Senate each committed to using a large share of these additional dollars to strengthen services and supports that are largely targeted to individuals and families with low incomes. In some cases, the two houses adopted a unified position that conflicts with the Governor’s approach. In other cases, the Assembly and Senate are divided. These differences will be aired and ironed out through the two-house budget conference committee process that gets under way today.
The report focused on California’s experiences during the first full year after implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansion. Focusing on those who have gained coverage either through Covered California or an expanded Medi-Cal program, the report examined the state’s health care system after roughly 4.4 million people have enrolled in coverage in the two programs. Using results from a comprehensive survey, the report found that those with insurance were more likely to use it, but the newly insured had more trouble than the previously insured navigating how to use their coverage. Additionally, almost half (47%) of those newly enrolled in Covered California reported having difficulty affording their monthly premiums, compared to 27% of those who were previously ensured prior to 2014. The report also found that community clinics and health centers are increasingly relied upon by the uninsured and newly insured.
First, our Inland Empire convening, cohosted by the California Partnership and the Community Clinic Association of San Bernardino County, will now be June 5th in Riverside at the United Domestic Workers Community Room, 3600 Lime Street, Suite 421. The agenda will be the same and we are excited to discuss Health for All efforts to extend coverage to California’s immigrant population, behavioral health integration, and including equity when considering ways to improve quality of care. We’d also like to hear from residents in the Inland Empire about the unique health needs your communities face. Register today and we can work together to improve health in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.
On Thursday, May 14th, Governor Jerry Brown released his revised budget proposal for the 2015-16 fiscal year. Despite a rosy economic picture with $6.7 billion in additional revenues, the revised budget does not restore any of the devastating cuts made during the recession to health and human services programs on which millions of Californians rely. The majority of the additional revenues ($5.5 billion) will go to K-12 education, but the remaining $1.2 billion will be split between the Rainy Day Fund and paying down debts.
Just as our state endures an historic drought, millions of Californians also face extreme needs and can’t afford to wait for that rainy day! Locking these funds away won’t help Medi-Cal recipients who are struggling to find a doctor because of low reimbursement rates or can’t access dental care due to limited dental benefits; or those on CalWORKS whose benefits were cut so severely that they remain in deep poverty. The budget proposal also fails to include funding for Health for All legislation to extend coverage to the over one million undocumented immigrants left out of the Affordable Care Act. Senator Holly Mitchell put it best when she said, “The budget is not simply a math problem…The Legislature has options to use a significant portion of the funds to meet human needs.”
Over 3.5 million Californians have enrolled in new coverage options since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, yet communities of color, immigrants, and Limited English Proficient populations continue to face health inequities. Join the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, California Partnership, and the Community Clinic Association of San Bernardino County, for Focus on Equity: Communities of Color in a Post-ACA California on June 5th in San Bernardino.
We’re also excited about the opportunity to examine the unique needs of the Inland Empire. With communities of color representing nearly two-thirds of the population in the region (66.7% of San Bernardino County, 60.3% of Riverside County), we will focus on ways to improve health and reduce inequities in this majority population. We will highlight opportunities to advance health equity both in the Inland Empire and across the state through discussion of the following topics:
Health for All efforts to provide health coverage to immigrants
CPEHN hosted its final Focus on Equity: Communities of Color in Post-ACA California convening series today in San Diego. Like our previous three events, this one focused on Health for All efforts to expand access to affordable coverage to everyone regardless of immigration status, strategies to integrate behavioral and physical health services, and ways to include equity considerations when evaluating and improving health care quality.
Marty Adelman from the Council of Community Clinics started things off with a presentation on current behavioral health integration efforts in San Diego. He stressed that integrating behavioral health and primary care services can improve both components by reducing stigma, closing the mortality gap, and limiting costs.
Adelman: behavioral health integration can combat stigma by meeting people in the community http://t.co/e3Qv1eGzJ6
Our Focus on Equity: Communities of Color in Post-ACA California convening series continued today in Los Angeles, and we continued to hear more great discussion about behavioral health integration, Health for All efforts to expand health coverage regardless of immigration status, and ways to improve quality of care while considering equity measures.
The day began with a great presentation by Felicia Jones of Healthy African American Families and Dr. Michael Ong from UCLA about Community Partners in Care (CPIC). Jones and Ong described how CPIC was a partnership between community and academic partners to develop strategies to reduce the burden of depression in vulnerable communities, particularly South Los Angeles and Hollywood/Metro Los Angeles.
Our spring convening series, Focus on Equity: Communities of Color in a Post-ACA California, continued today in Fresno, as health advocates gathered to discuss the most pressing health needs for communities of color in the Central Valley. Like our Oakland convening on Tuesday, this event focused on three key areas: behavioral health integration, considering equity when improving the quality of care, and Health for All efforts to expand access to coverage for everyone regardless of immigration status.
Jennifer Torres from Clinica Sierra Vista started things off by discussing ongoing efforts to integrate behavioral health services with primary care services at community health clinics in Kern and Fresno Counties. She pointed to some initial challenges with assimilating behavioral health into the culture of community health clinics, but also noted that progress has been made.
Today in Oakland, health advocates from across the Bay Area gathered at CPEHN’s spring convening, Focus on Equity: Communities of Color in Post-ACA California, to discuss efforts to reduce health inequities in California. The event focused on three priority areas: efforts to expand access to health care to all Californians regardless of immigration status (Health for All), including equity in efforts to improve quality of care, and the integration of behavioral and primary health care services.
After an introductory presentation from CPEHN’s Cary Sanders on the current state of coverage, quality, and behavioral health integration, we shifted to local speakers. The first, Jazmin Segura from Educators for Fair Consideration, spoke about the importance of expanding health care to all Californians, regardless of immigration status. She noted that thanks to the recent executive order by President Barack Obama, many immigrants receiving Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status are now considered Permanent Residents Under Color of Law (PRUCOL) and are thus eligible for full-scope Medi-Cal if they meet the income requirements. However, years of distrust in the system has combined with pervasive misinformation to keep DACA-eligible immigrants from signing up for Medi-Cal, either because they don’t know they are eligible or because they are afraid of future repercussions.
Segura then discussed current efforts to extend health coverage to all Californians, regardless of immigration status. She noted that Senator Ricardo Lara’s SB 4 Health for All Act is “the next great fight for immigrant rights organizations” and noted that for it to pass through the legislature, it will need help from advocates across the state.