FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) –Hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants will be eligible for Medi-Cal after Governor Gavin Newsom and state leaders reached a budget deal this week. Advocates say California is making history as the first state to offer ‘Health4All’.
“Si se puede! We made it happen in California,” celebrated activist Dolores Huerta at a press conference in Sacramento on Wednesday. “Who’s being covered? Somebody who’s taking care of your children, taking care of your elderly, and yes putting the food on our table every day –the farmworkers.”
‘Health4All’ is a nearly decade-long effort that will expand coverage to about 700,000 undocumented, low-income Californians ages 26-49. Immigrants in other age groups had previously received state coverage.
“It has been a movement that will improve the lives of Californians,” said Fresno assemblymember, Dr. Joaquin Arambula, who is one of the state leaders pushing for this benefit.
“We won’t be afraid to go to the doctor now,” shared Laura Cruz, an immigrant in Bakersfield who said she’s lived in the U.S for 20 years but was always worried about going to the doctor because she did not have health insurance.
Cruz said she spent two years paying off a medical bill, and most times put off seeking help until her symptoms got bad.
“It’s been really hard, especially during the pandemic because you had to choose between going to the doctor or paying your bills,” said Norma Sandoval, a Parlier mom who said her husband is an undocumented farm worker who will also benefit from ‘Health4All’.
“The struggle is real, and we saw the results that bore out during this pandemic,” said assembly member Arambula.
“We know many, many people died because they had pre-existing conditions. Well, this will take care of some of those preexisting conditions,” said Huerta. ‘Health4All’ will go into effect in 2024.
The ‘Health4All’ coalition consists of more than 180 state and national organizations. In 2016, it secured full-scope Medi-Cal for all low-income children, regardless of immigration status.
Subsequent advocacy led to removing Medi-Cal exclusions for undocumented young adults ages 19-25 in 2020. In May of this year, California began opening Medi-Cal to all income-eligible adults ages 50 and older.