In California, the passage of Health for All Kids has made it possible for children across the state to access coverage regardless of immigration status.
Immigrants from Japan, Masako and her husband Dan came to the United States seeking a better life for them and their young son, Aaron. Aaron is a shy, bright young boy who has always loved to draw. Every afternoon, Masako finds him at the dinner table shaping his Playdoh into fantastical characters.
Masako and her family moved to California in December 2016 when Dan found a new position as an information technology assistant. But just as Masako discovered she was pregnant with her second child, her husband’s employer reduced his hours. In her second trimester, and with Aaron about to start school, Masako became increasingly worried about what would happen if she or Aaron became ill.
Masako understood the importance of health insurance for Aaron and wanted to address his health needs, but health coverage felt out of reach because of the high cost and the fact that Aaron, like her, is an undocumented immigrant.
She turned to online resources to search for health care opportunities for Aaron and signed up for newsletters from advocates working on increasing access to health coverage for families in California. Earlier this year, she received an email that changed her life. In it, she learned that California had just passed Health for All Kids, a law that makes health coverage available for all children in California regardless of immigration status.
Children’s advocates in California have long sought coverage for all children, and Packard Foundation grantees like California Coverage & Health Initiatives, Children Now, Children’s Defense Fund-California, PICO California, The Children’s Partnership, and United Ways of California are leading many of the state’s coverage efforts. They do so because they believe all children deserve access to quality, affordable care that keeps them healthy and gives them a strong start in life.
To guarantee coverage for children like Aaron, these advocates dedicated significant time to educating California policymakers, communities, and the media about why coverage is vital for children and for the state’s future. When the state rolled out Health for All Kids in April 2016, these same advocates provided California with guidance on implementation and created a user-friendly website, Health 4 All Kids, so families had a place to go to learn about enrollment. Now they are continuing outreach campaigns through schools, churches, and community centers so parents like Masako know about the health care coverage available for their children.
Thanks to these and other crucial efforts, Aaron now has access to Medicaid, called Medi-Cal in California. The program covers all Aaron’s needs, including medical, vision, dental, and mental health services. He will soon enter school healthy and ready to learn, and if Aaron ever falls down on the playground or comes down with the flu, Masako and her husband can now access the care and medicine they need without worrying about financial hardship. Health for All Kids has transformed their lives.
For advocates, the work continues. Though 95 percent of children in the U.S. are enrolled in health coverage, immigrant children are falling behind, according to a recent study from the Urban Institute. In 2014, noncitizen children were more than three times as likely to be uninsured as children who are citizens. Without health coverage, these children are less likely to get the care they need to succeed.
All children should have access to health care and California’s Health for All Kids has made coverage a reality for thousands of children, allowing families across the state to rest easy knowing they have Medi-Cal coverage that keeps their children healthy and safe.