Consumer, community, and health organizations cheered the announcement (in the Los Angeles Times and elsewhere) this past week that Senator Ricardo Lara and the California Legislative Latino Caucus plan to introduce legislation to ensure coverage for California’s remaining uninsured, including the undocumented. We have been working with the Senator’s office and that of other legislators, and we look forward to the effort.
The Affordable Care Act will dramatically expand coverage, but we will still have 2-3 million Californians who remain uninsured, and California can and should take steps to include everyone and improve our health system as whole.
California and our health system is stronger when everyone has access to care and coverage. It’s cheaper to provide access to primary, preventive care than to treat illnesses after they develop. By ensuring that Californians have that access, counties can make sure that their residents are healthy and contributing economically to their communities.
In November, Health Access California released a report urging a statewide solution to the remaining uninsured, showing that the current county safety-net is wildly uneven–with many counties that do and do not cover people based on income or immigration status. The report is available by visiting www.health-access.org or directly through the following link: http://health-access.org/files/expanding/California%27s%20Uneven%20Safety%20Net%20-%20A%20Survey%20of%20County%20Health%20Care.pdf
The Governor’s budget last year took money from the county safety-net, but proposes nothing to care or cover California’s remaining uninsured this year. The budget misses the opportunity to invest in prevention and primary care, for a healthier community and lower costs in the long term. California’s immigrants are critical to our economy and our community, and they need to be included as efficiently as possible in our health system as well.
If our health system were a boat, it’s hard to steer if there are people still hanging off the sides of the ship. It will be our top priority to get everyone on board.