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Davis

Davis, California

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

#Health4All battle is on

Advocates urge legislators to support California Senate Bill 29

On March 20, hundreds of advocates from the Health4All Coalition urged legislators to support California Senate Bill 29, which would enable access to healthcare for all Californians, regardless of immigration status. The event started a #Health4All Day of Action, so those who could not attend could participate via hashtag.

Carolina Gamero, the senior communications specialist for the California Immigrant Policy Center and a member of the Health4All Coalition, mentioned how they have already gained a victory for undocumented children’s healthcare with SB 75, but they are still fighting for adult healthcare.

“We won a component of this for undocumented children, and that was implemented in 2016 (SB 75) called Health4AllKids, but we couldn’t just stop there,” Gamero said. “We needed to make sure that we have access for their parents, for their grandparents, for those who were locked out of care, so the main reason why we were out of Sacramento was because we wanted to show the members of the Senate Health Committee that it was super urgent — even more so, as the new governor, Gavin Newsom, has expressed his commitment to extending healthcare or medical access for undocumented young adults.”

Angelica Ramirez, the executive director of California Physicians Alliance, included that while all children have access to healthcare, there is a growing need for their caretakers to also have a healthcare plan.

“SB 29 would expand medical [access] to all undocumented individuals, regardless of immigration status,” Ramirez said. “Right now, due to the Health4All Coalition’s work, we were able to expand MediCal to all children up to age 18 regardless of immigration status, which was a huge victory. Those children that now have access to MediCal have parents who are also undocumented with health needs, and they need to take care of their families and can’t do so if they’re not healthy enough to work and live. SB 29 would expand to all undocumented individuals regardless of age, if they qualify.”

According to a Senate press release, Senator María Elena Durazo, who authored SB 29, noted how healthcare for all is crucial, as people are not able to attain preventative care.

“We have taken the first steps toward providing healthcare for all, regardless of immigration status,” Durazo said in the press release. “In spite of their integral role in our state, undocumented Californians are, for the most part, left out of our health insurance system. They can’t get preventive screenings for serious health conditions like diabetes. They rely on emergency rooms and last-minute care.”

March 20 became a day of action to continue the fight and urge legislators to support SB 29.

“We had a really great turnout,” Gamero said. “We brought advocates and community members from our coalition, so we had people from San Diego, from the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium, ranging to Oxford areas to the Inland Empire to folks in the Bay Area who represent Asian Pacific Islander communities. We had over a hundred people turnout for that day, but in addition to that, we had people who were supporting individually as well. We had this #Health4All on Twitter and Facebook that we use for folks who wanted to be there for the day but weren’t able to join. You can see from even that hashtag how passionate people are about making this a visible part about the governor’s plan and budget for that year.”

The bill is moving along for approval as the pressure continues. Gamero is urgin the community to continue the discourse surrounding SB 29.

“The bill now heads to the appropriations committee, which is where the funding questions will take place and where we will have the legislators weigh in on this and talk about if this is something we will invest in,” Gamero said. “It will be really important to mobilize our community members to make calls for their legislators and get involved and meet with them in person.”

Ramirez added how physicians had their own reasons for fighting for the cause as well.

“As physicians, we are speaking from that viewpoint where we know what it’s like to be on the frontlines,” Ramirez said. “Our physician members treat patients who are just trying to be healthy and to provide for their families. And it’s important that everyone has access to health insurance and that our system really reflects the values of California and that it’s this golden state of optimism. We believe that SB 29 is one step forward to getting us to universal healthcare, but obviously there’s still a lot more to go, and California Physicians Alliance would really advocate for not only stopping at SB 29 and continuing until we have a single care system that’s actually equitable and accessible and high quality for everyone.”

Gamero emphasized the power of storytelling and anecdotes from those who were able to speak about their challenges and experiences “being locked out of healthcare.”

“We would hear stories about people being in a financial crisis or if they had loved ones or family members who passed away because they weren’t about to see a specialist or get the preventative or routine follow-up care needed to avoid costly and grave health outcomes,” Gamero said. “I think we were all very moved from hearing from community members that day, and it just made us that much more motivated to continue the pressure and make sure that legislators don’t stop hearing from us and that this is a top and urgent issue.”

Written by: Stella Tran — city@theaggie.org

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