California Bill Would Provide Insurance To Undocumented Immigrants

Almost three million Californians signed up for private health insurance or Medi-Cal under the Affordable Care Act. But an estimated three to four million others remain uninsured. Among them are a million California residents who can’t get coverage under Obamacare, because they’re in the country illegally.

Last week, health care activists rolled through San Diego as part of a campaign to expand insurance coverage to the state’s undocumented immigrants. 

“Undocumented people contribute to the state,” says the California Immigrant Policy Center’s Betsy Estudillo. “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.”

Immigrant rights advocates support a bill that would expand Medi-Cal eligibility to all Californians regardless of immigration status. The bill would also create a special health care exchange where undocumented Californians could shop for insurance.

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, “VapoRuu” — a common Spanish pronunciation of Vapor Rub — is the cure for everything, including “high cholesterol levels, diabetes and other diseases that lead to heart attacks.”

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Twenty-three year old Carlos Salinas, whose family is undocumented, says he can relate to that.

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

The California Senate Health Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the Health for All bill to cover undocumented immigrants on Wednesday.

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