California counties are required to provide health care to the poor and uninsured. But the expansion of Medi-Cal under the Affordable Care Act means fewer people need that help. So with fewer demands on their money but a continuing mandate to provide care, more counties are looking for ways to help people who live in the country illegally.
Anthony Wright is Executive Director of the advocacy group Health Access.
"In the last year you had counties like Sacramento, Monterrey, Contra Costa and 35 small, rural counties, under the County Medical Services Program, decide to start limited benefit pilot programs to provide at least some care to the remaining uninsured, including the undocumented," he says.
Data from Health Access shows just 11 of California’s 58 counties do not provide some kind of non-emergency care for undocumented immigrants. Wright says the reason for expanding care is straightforward.
"We are all better off if everybody has some access to health care," he says. "Our health system is stronger if people have some access to primary, preventative care, can get access to care that is outside of the four walls of the hospital. And that is what these counties are attempting to do."
A legislative effort to extend Medi-Cal to undocumented adults stalled earlier this year. But the state has agreed to cover undocumented children beginning next spring.
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