For Mercedes, an immigrant mother from El Salvador and a Sacramento resident, the Medi-Cal expansion will benefit her 12-year-old undocumented daughter who hasn’t have a comprehensive medical exam in many years because of lack of health insurance.
For Mercedes, whose last name was not provided because of her immigration status, the news of the Medi-Cal expansion in California gave her hope that her daughter will soon get health coverage.
Last year, California legislators expanded Medi-Cal to cover all lower-income children under 19 years old regardless of their immigration status and would give them access to quality, affordable health care.
Approximately 170,000 undocumented children will gain access to health coverage for the first time ever as soon as May 1, 2016. California became the state with the largest immigrant population to provide health care coverage to low-income undocumented children.
With the implementation of the Medi-Cal expansion, California would be the fifth state in the nation to expand affordable, quality health care to lower-income undocumented children.
Mercedes said her daughter is already enrolled in restricted-scope Medi-Cal, which is also known as “emergency” Medi-Cal.
And the initiative known as #Health4All Kids from The California Endowment is ramping up its outreach efforts to educate undocumented and mixed immigration-status families in California about the upcoming Medi-Cal expansion, and its encouraging parents to take action now even though the expansion won’t start until May.
Richard Figueroa, director at The California Endowment, said as part of the #Health4All Kids initiative The Endowment started in November a strategic paid media campaign in Spanish to raise awareness on the expansion as well as an educational campaign with community partners, aiming to reach undocumented and mixed status families whose children are newly eligible.
According to #health4all advocates there are steps children and families should be taking now to ensure their children would be able to take full advantage of full Medi-Cal benefits as soon as it is available.
Advocate remind people that Medi-Cal enrollment is open year-around as well as that families don’t have to wait to have an emergency for them to enroll their children in emergency Medi-Cal. Those enrolled in emergency Medi-Cal will be automatically transitioned into comprehensive Medi-Cal, which will provide undocumented children with preventative health services, once the expansion takes effect in May.
Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access said signing up for emergency medical was something that they didn’t encourage proactively in the past, however in this case with the Medi-Cal expansion a few month away, is important for those children to be in the system so they could get a notice and will be automatically be shifted to full scope Medi-Cal.
“It is a profound statement that as of May, every child in every playground, and every classroom in California, will have access to affordable coverage,” said Wright. “Even these continued efforts for additional enrollment, is only a part of the work this year. The other part is to continue the work to make sure all people in California have access to the care that they need.”
Ronald Coleman of the California Immigrant Policy Center reminds parents in mixed status families that their information will be used only for the purpose of healthcare eligibility enrollment and stressed that families should not be afraid of sharing their personal information out of fear of deportation.
“We are trying to make the case for undocumented parents to please feel free to come forward and sign up any eligible children or eligible family members because it is safe,” said Coleman said, adding their information will stay confidentially.
Ben Avey, from the California Primary Care Association said the first step for families to enroll their undocumented children in emergency Medi-Cal is “to find a trusted and valued partner who can help you walk through this process.”
“We know that sometimes it can be very complicated, and there are resources out there,” said Avey, urging families to find a clinic at www.localclinic.net or www.clinicalocal.net for a healthcare center near them.
María G. Ortiz-Briones: 559-441-6782, @TuValleTuSalud
Families can enroll their children through their local county human services office or a local clinic.