Leave No Californian Behind

California Governor Gavin Newsom discusses his budget proposal
California governor Gavin Newsom discusses his budget proposal, dubbed the California Blueprint, on Thursday, January 13, in Santa Clara, California. Photo: AP / Noah Berger

Not long ago, the idea of universal health coverage was a dream — a cherished goal to strive for. Now California, the largest state in the nation, is poised to make that dream a reality.

Earlier this week, Governor Gavin Newsom released a budget proposal (PDF) to remove all barriers to Medi-Cal enrollment based on immigration status. In recent years, California eliminated such barriers for Californians with low incomes under the age of 26 and over the age of 49. The governor’s latest plan would finish the job for the rest of California’s immigrant population — and make history in the process.

Covering everyone has never felt more urgent. The COVID-19 pandemic reminds us daily that we are all connected by health. It has made all of us more aware of the many ways in which we depend on each other to be and stay well. That is why universal coverage isn’t just about making history. It’s about making a healthy, prosperous future together.

While California has reduced inequities in coverage over time, it hasn’t eliminated them. As a new CHCF report shows, noncitizen adults are more than three times more likely to be uninsured than their citizen counterparts. This disparity persists despite the vital role that Californians without citizenship play in every aspect of our society and economy.

Universal coverage is within reach because of the hard work of so many Californians — especially immigrants and their families and friends — who came forth to tell their stories and demand change. It is feasible because whenever we as a society have expanded coverage, the benefits have been so clear. Of course, coverage alone won’t guarantee that people get the care they need, but it is a necessary precondition. We must also continue to work with similar urgency to improve access and quality of care for everyone enrolled in Medi-Cal.

When it comes to making sure everyone has security and health opportunities that coverage provides, the future starts now.