Imagine having to choose between putting food on the table or taking yourself or a sick child to the doctor. Imagine having a condition like diabetes, which should be easy to treat, spiral so far out of control that you lose your sight. Think of the loss — to your own life, your own family, to your work, to your community — and to the economy, too.
As a country and as a state, we’ve recognized that this shouldn’t happen. We’ve recognized that ensuring health for all not only makes tremendous common sense, but it makes tremendous economic sense as well.
However, one group is still left out, because Congress unjustly and purposefully excluded undocumented community members from the Affordable Care Act.
Here in California, only two out of five undocumented residents are covered from employment-based insurance, while more than one million are shut out from affordable care.
With Sen. Lara’s Health for All Act, we can right this wrong and create an efficient, cost-effective health system that benefits us all.
The act would expand Medi-Cal to all low-income Californians and also create a parallel health exchange, similar to Covered California.
So, how do we pay for this?
The fact is, that expanding affordable health care to all Californians is incredibly cost effective. For a modest investment in a stronger and healthier California, we’ll secure a powerful return.
Let’s look at the math. According to the UC-Berkeley Labor Center, California could expand Medi-Cal to undocumented immigrants by paying just two cents more for every general fund dollar our state is already spending on the program.
And the good news doesn’t end there.
To expand Medi-Cal to all, we can leverage funding from hospital presumptive eligibility and funds in the existing emergency Medi-Cal program, which already enrolls 800,000 Californians. Additionally, we can take advantage of substantial offsets from state sales tax revenue from health care insurers through the MCO tax. Meanwhile, counties would experience a natural reduction in spending on the uninsured population.
For the mirror exchange that Health for All would create, undocumented consumers would contribute a share of premiums ranging from 2% to 9.5% of their income, as well as copays, deductibles and coinsurance just as other Californians covered by Covered California do today.
As the legislative process moves forward, if it becomes clear that despite the mathematical reality, we’ll need to generate additional revenue for such a program, then we must find progressive solutions that aren’t going to further deepen poverty.
Access to health care is a public concern, and undocumented immigrants should not be singled out and made to pay a disproportionate share of the cost of a program that benefits the public well-being. Undocumented immigrants contribute over $2 billion in taxes to the state of California, and they are keeping our state’s economy healthy. Don’t we owe them the same?
At the end of the day, investing in immigrant families is investing in our state’s future.