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:
CPEHN Executive Director Sarah de Guia appeared on National Public Radio (via Bay Area affiliate KQED) to discuss the report and the impact the ACA has had in our state:
"This is really great news for California," said Sarah de Guia, executive director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, an advocacy group. She spoke of people being lifted from the fear of paying for care. "There's this sense of relief, that they're not one accident or incident away from bankruptcy. ... They can keep their costs contained."
Over 100 advocates from across the state gathered at the Sierra Health Foundation in Sacramento earlier today for CPEHN’s sixth Focus on Equity: Communities of Color in a Post-ACA California convening. The event, co-hosted by OnTrack Program Resources, highlighted a number of topics that impact health in California’s communities of color, including health care quality, behavioral health integration, and access to health care for the remaining uninsured, particularly undocumented immigrants.
After the popularity of our events in Oakland, Fresno, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Riverside, we were invited by OnTrack to continue the discussion in the state capital. The event began with a presentation by CPEHN Executive Director Sarah de Guia that touched on each of the event’s topics.
She focused on how communities of color, who represent a majority of the state’s population, have the most to gain from successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). She also pointed to the increased enrollment of Latinos and African Americans during Covered California’s second open enrollment period as a sign that the law’s programs are starting to have their intended impact.
With last month’s Supreme Court ruling affirming that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is here to stay, advocates and decisionmakers can turn to building on the law’s success, such as closing the Medicaid gap, improving the value of care, and eliminating the “family glitch.” Another top priority in this next phase of health reform is making good on the promise of health care for all, regardless of immigration status. This includes the approximately 11.2 million undocumented immigrants who live and work in our country.
The effort to expand access to affordable health coverage for California’s immigrant population is in full gear this week as Senator Ricardo Lara has been traveling the state to promote SB 4, which takes a strong step toward covering all Californians by expanding access to Medi-Cal to all children regardless of immigration status. The bill also allows undocumented immigrants to purchase coverage through Covered California, which they are currently prohibited from doing.
Senator Lara’s Health for All Statewide Community Tour kicked off in Oakland last night along with Assemblymember Rob Bonta at Asian Health Services. Senator Lara will be traveling throughout the summer legislative break to rally support for his proposal and to build awareness about the expanded coverage options for undocumented children, which will begin in April 2016. SB 4 will be heard in the Assembly Appropriations committee when the legislature reconvenes in August.
Community and organizational support at last night’s press conference and community meeting demonstrated the imperative of covering the state’s immigrant population.
Assemblymember Bonta discussed his family’s recent immigration history as one of the main reasons why he’s working on SB 4.
The California Assembly Health Committee took another important step to increasing access to health coverage to all children in the state regardless of immigration status by passing Senator Ricardo Lara’s SB 4. The bill passed along party lines, with Democratic members in support and Republicans in opposition. The committee also passed one of CPEHN’s co-sponsored bills, SB 137 (Hernandez), which would enhance consumer protections by improving health plan’s provider directories. This important bill received bipartisan support.
The hearing began with Senator Lara explaining the benefits of his bill, which would expand access to full-scope Medi-Cal to all children regardless of immigration status and allow California to apply for a waiver through section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act allowing undocumented adults to purchase coverage through Covered California. He talked about the tremendous community support he’s received while working on Health for All legislation over the last two years.
.@SenRicardoLara starting things off wi SB4 #health4all "met with 100s of people shared heartbreaking stories challenges faced w/o coverage"
Please join us at the latest event in our Focus on Equity series! After successful events in Fresno, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Diego, and most recently Riverside, we are coming to Sacramento in July.
The Affordable Care Act has changed the landscape of health coverage in California. With over 3.5 million now enrolled, the state’s uninsured rate continues to drop. However, persistent health disparities remain among communities of color, immigrants, and Limited English Proficient populations. We are continuing to work to address these inequities, and you can help develop solutions at Focus on Equity: Communities of Color in a Post-ACA California in Sacramento on July 27th.
During the event, join the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network and OnTrack Program Resources, Inc., to discuss opportunities to advance health equity both locally and statewide on:
Equity in health care access
Health for All efforts to provide health coverage to immigrants