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Why Advocates Want Health Care for All Californians — Regardless of Immigration Status

HEALTH CARE - If the subject is how to provide health care to Californians, Sarah Dar suggests, it may be useful first to define terms.

“I think the real question in this whole issue is, who do we really consider to be Californians, and who do we not?” says Dar, the director of health and public benefits policy at the California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC). “What we’re trying to make sure everyone understands is that everyone who calls California home — who lives here, who contributes to their neighborhood and to society, who works here, pays taxes, who is raising their family in California — is a Californian, regardless of their immigrant status.”

When it comes to providing access to health services, that’s not the case. And as the pandemic has made clear, the consequences of failing to offer even routine health care to all residents of the state can have dramatic, deleterious effects during a health crisis.

Gradually but steadily, the state has been moving toward covering more of its residents with at least basic care. In July, following a multiyear campaign by CIPC, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a major expansion of the state’s Medicaid coverage to include all low-income residents age 50 and up, regardless of their immigration status. The state had previously made Medi-Cal available to children and young adults up to age 26, whether or not they were documented residents.

That leaves a significant and growing category of immigrant workers, those ages 26 to 50, who often have little or no access to affordable health care — and it’s one of the reasons Dar’s organization continues to push.

“Immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, are part of the backbone of the economy of many different sectors in California,” Dar says. “They’re Californians in every other way except for our social safety net, and that’s what we think is wrong and we’re trying to change.”

In this episode of Capital & Main’s weeklong podcast series The Crossing, Dar explains where California stands on the long road to universal health care for its residents.

 

(Mark Kreidler is a California-based writer and broadcaster, and the author of three books, including Four Days to Glory. This story was featured in Capital and Main.)