COVID-19 has not only underscored the importance of healthcare; it has reminded us that not all Californians have health insurance. Approximately 1.8 million Latinos are uninsured, making up approximately 63% of the state’s uninsured population. Many would be eligible for Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program designed for low-income residents, but are locked out because of their immigration status.
Currently, our elected leaders in Sacramento are considering bills to expand health access. TODEC Legal Center, in the Inland Empire, is one of many Latino-led community-based organizations that has advocated for the inclusion of undocumented adults in the Medi-Cal program.
This month, TODEC member Isabel García, 65, provided testimony during a hearing in the California’s State Assembly, in which she urged lawmakers to take action in favor of the measures.
Below is an excerpt from Isabel’s testimony delivered on April 13 to the State Assembly’s Health Committee:
“I continue to suffer from the harm caused by the coronavirus… I don’t have access to Medi-Cal coverage, and out of fear, I did not seek medical attention.
“I still have problems breathing. I fear going to sleep and not waking up. Because of my age I suffer from different chronic illnesses. I have never asked of anything from the government; I have always supported my kids as a single mother working for more than 35 years in the fields, without any benefits, harvesting different vegetables.”
“I gave my life and my work to [California], and to this country, but now I feel like an old rag—because I’m not able to work anymore, I’m thrown away like trash.”
“I’m not sure if I will survive Covid because I am still having difficulty breathing. I don’t have money to pay hospital bills, but if I die, I want to leave with my conscience clean, knowing that I advocated for other elders like myself, that have given their lives to this country.”
In addition to advocating for improved access to healthcare, TODEC Legal Center is campaigning to increase vaccination rates among Latinos in the Inland Empire. Overall, Latinos are also 2.6 times more likely to test positive for the coronavirus compared to white Californians. Further, working-age Latino immigrants in California were 11 times more likely to die from Covid.
Read LCF’s fact sheet on Latino health insurance rates here: Closing California’s Health Insurance Gaps Begins in the Latino Community
Written by Eduardo García, Senior Policy Fellow at the Latino Community Foundation.
Photo Credit: California Immigrant Policy Center