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Campaign Seeks Health Coverage For Undocumented Californians

Photo by Jill Replogle

Health care and immigrant rights advocates travel around California to raise awareness about the lack of health coverage for undocumented immigrants, April 23, 2014.

Health care activists are touring California in an attempt to drum up support for a bill that would offer affordable healthcare coverage for the state’s nearly 3 million residents who don’t qualify for Obamacare because of their immigration status.

The bill, introduced by state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach), would expand Medi-Cal eligibility to all Californians regardless of immigration status. It would also create a special health care exchange for undocumented Californians to shop for insurance.

“When everyone’s covered, everyone’s healthy,” said Betsy Estudillo, health policy coordinator for the California Immigrant Policy Center.

Estudillo is part of the undocumented “CARE-van” that stopped in San Ysidro on Wednesday on its tour around the state to promote the bill.

She noted that undocumented immigrants in California paid an estimated $2.2 billion in state and local taxes in 2010, according to the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

“They also take care of our families, they put food on the table, so it’s important to be able to include them because when they do better, we all do better as a state,” Estudillo said.

Some California residents who don’t qualify for the Affordable Care Act because of their immigration status have private insurance or get healthcare through public programs. But an estimated one million undocumented Californians are expected to remain uninsured, according to a recent study from several University of California research centers.

No Health Care? No Problem!

Video by Ucla Labor

The UCLA Labor Center produced this spoof video to bring attention to the lack of health coverage among California's immigrant population.

A spoof video produced by the Dream Resource Center at UCLA highlights immigrant families’ use of home remedies and over the counter drugs to treat a wide variety of ailments because they lack health insurance. In the video, a Latina grandmother massages “VapoRuu” — a common Spanish pronunciation of Vapor Rub — on her husband and grandchildren to prevent diabetes and cure hair loss.

Carlos Salinas, 23, says he can relate to that.

“We haven’t had insurance,” he said, “so anything happens to me it’s pretty much herbal medicine or some sort of remedy.”

Salinas, who recently graduated from UCLA and is undocumented, is traveling with the group promoting Sen. Lara’s bill. He’s currently awaiting approval of his application for deportation relief under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

If approved, he’ll get a work permit and could qualify for public health coverage. In California, DACA recipients can apply for Medi-Cal.

But his 52-year-old mother and three older brothers would remain ineligible for insurance.

The Senate Health Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Sen. Lara’s bill, SB 1005, on April 30.

No estimates have yet been given by the senator or others on how much the bill would cost or how it would be funded.

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