Uninsured and Undocumented: It’s Time for California to Go Bold on Health Care
By: Gissela Moya, Civic Engagement Fellow at the Latino Community Foundation.
Last week, I became the first person in my family to graduate from college. In what should have been a joyous occasion also brought forth concerns about what the future holds for people like me.
I am an undocumented 23-year-old person without DACA living in California from Honduras. Growing up in the United States, I never had access to medical insurance. To use the dentist, for example, I once paid $2,000 out-of-pocket to receive dental care. Getting sick for me was always an expensive problem.
It wasn’t until I enrolled at UC Berkeley where I first received any type of medical care. Now that I graduated, I will unfortunately lose the very health care that has given me peace of mind these past three years.
With healthcare at the forefront of California’s upcoming budget negotiations, California can lead the rest of the country into the implementation of one the most inclusive healthcare systems this country has ever known.
We’ve done it before. We can do it again. And my immediate future depends on it.
Currently, Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Legislature are considering proposals to expand Medi-Cal to undocumented immigrants. The latest budget by Governor Newsom would expand Medi-Cal eligibility for undocumented individuals between 19 and 26 years old. Another proposal, led by State Senator Maria Elena Durazo, would include undocumented immigrants over 65 years of age. A third and final proposal is to expand Medi-Cal to all undocumented immigrants over 19 years-old.
While all three proposals would expand eligibility to Medi-Cal in one way or another, questions arise as to who would be most impacted by these changes. Most undocumented immigrants in California are Latino. A change to Medi-Cal eligibility could have a significant impact in decreasing the number of uninsured Latinos, and therefore, Californians.
Despite the success of the Affordable Care Act, 2.9 million people remain uninsured in the state and nearly three out of five of these uninsured are Latino. It’s clear that the pathway towards insuring all Californians runs through the Latino community.
In San Bernardino County, the place where I grew up, there are roughly 141,000 undocumented immigrants. Immigrants’ inability to access health insurance can help explain why less than 3 in 10 Latinos in cities like Ontario have Medi-Cal.
(Source: Measure of America, Social Science Research Council. 2019. The California Latino Power Map. http://www.latinocf.org/map.)
As the state enters its budget negotiations, I call on Governor Newsom and the California Legislature to keep immigrants like me, my family, and my community in mind. Your decisions over the next weeks will affect us for years to come.
We can and should debate the merits of these proposals, but we should never negotiate a fundamental principle: every human being regardless of their status deserves access to quality healthcare. It’s time for our leaders in Sacramento to go bold.