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More California Kids Are Gaining Access To Health Care

Nathaly Gonzalez, foreground, joined others at a rally celebrating the expansion of Medi-Cal to children and teens illegally brought to the U.S. at the Capitol in Sacramento, May 16, 2016.
Associated Press
Nathaly Gonzalez, foreground, joined others at a rally celebrating the expansion of Medi-Cal to children and teens illegally brought to the U.S. at the Capitol in Sacramento, May 16, 2016.

More California Kids Are Gaining Access To Health Care
More California Kids Are Gaining Access To Health Care GUEST:Gary Rotto, senior vice president, Borrego Health

Starting this week all children in California no matter what immigrations Dennis, can get publicly funded health care coverage. The new policy allows kids in the country illegally access to Medi-Cal. The expanded coverage is fully funded by California, federal funds pay for half the cost. It is a policy being praised by immigrant advocates, but criticized by some. Joining me is Gary Rotto senior vice president of government and community affairs Borrego Health. How is this coverage different from what Medi-Cal used to provide? Weren't emergency services for immigrants already covered? Some services. It was emergency services are partial coverage. That was if you are having an emergency and you show up or if you are pregnant woman, you could get prepregnancy programs. That was the limit, as far as the scope of Medi-Cal what is covered now for teens and kids? Up to age 19 up to a certain income level, is eligible for primary care, for wellness programs, dental programs, mental health, prescriptions, that's the full coverage now. You've been including health care for a long time, where the advocating for this? It's something, have a fabulous if anyone him. It's part of our public health network. Some people would come in and not be covered, we would work with them. For the most part were just showing up at the emergency room, we want to move away from that. Having this type of coverage, assuring family sues kids are here and in our schools, we want them to do well. We are going to be able to keep their children while and get ahead of the curve as far as health. Estimates are that statewide 250,000 kids under the age of 18 are eligible. Do we have enough providers to handle that? We believe, there's always a concern about workforce. We've been able to extend and two things in the community to cover anybody who's been added to any of the different expansions of Medi-Cal. Isn't there an ongoing problem in California, about adequate payments from Medicaid.-- doctors. When we refer to a specialist, is that when comes into play. People here there is a problem with Medicaid payments to doctors and a shrinking amount of doctors will accept it. This expansion, thinking the whole system will be overwhelmed, you are saying no. In certain specialties, note question there is a dire need for more doctors. We firmly believe that there needs to be adequate pay for physicians in the Medi-Cal program. That's the only way we can serve people in the community. How important is it for families to have this kind of access to medical checkups? It's important to the families and schools. Kids need to continue to learn. If someone is feeling ill, has a condition, is at home or hospitalized, the child won't be able to learn well. When they're not in school, the schools don't get the ADA or funding for that day. That's important, the amount of funds that come into our schools that support school programs and teachers. Healthcare impacts, not only the individual and the healthcare, but also the totality of the community. It sounds as if not having to rely on taking a child in when there is an emergency could catch some sort of problems early on. We know that for sure. Some of that is dental. I was at a conference, we were talking about dental needs. Just how many children are not getting the checkups, not just once their teeth have corrupted, but even before that. Creating good dental hygiene, working with the parents at the time the teeth first come in. Because of this new coverage, we are able to continue to advance that in advance wellness in the community. It's been difficult to get full enrollment in covered California for people from within the Latino community who are citizens or who are here legally. Do you expect it may be difficult to get undocumented families to sign their kids up for this program? I think we will be working with a number of community-based organizations. I see, looking at our calendar, the different organizations that we are working with other community-based organizations with programs to continue to educate people. Anyone's first concern is their child. If they understand that they are able to keep their child well, that will be the motivation. There are many people who are not happy about using public monies to pay for healthcare of people here illegally. How to someone in the healthcare community see that argument? This is part of our public health structure. We want to maintain the health of the community, the individuals, the children. We want our children to be in school. A police chief said they would rather have the kid in school but on the street. Let's have our kids be productive, live productive lives and be that much more productive. I've been speaking with Gary Rotto, senior vice president at Borrego Health. Coming up Steve Walsh explains the problems plaguing the VA's veterans choice healthcare program. It's 12 deck 23 -- 12:23 PM and you are listening to KPBS Midday Edition

California children and teens who were brought illegally to the U.S. are gaining access to publicly funded health care.

California on Monday began allowing young people to sign up for the state's health care program for the poor without regard to their immigration status.


State officials expect as many as 185,000 children under age 19 to sign up for Medi-Cal in the first year — about three-quarters of the estimated 250,000 who are eligible.

Health care and immigrant-rights advocates say the expanded coverage shows California cares about all children regardless of their immigration status.

Critics say the policy distracts from the needs of American citizens and encourages people to immigrate illegally to California.

The coverage is expected to cost the state about $188 million the first year.