Toward a Healthy California: Why Improving Access to Medical Insurance for Unauthorized Immigrants Matters For the Golden State
Insurance matters, although the connection to health is sometimes tenuous and unclear. Still, most Americans would rather be with than without – and one clear connection that does promote individual well-being is the way in which medical insurance helps to reduce financial risk and stress. The benefits also seem to accrue beyond the individual: there are broad public health benefits to having more people covered and the current undocumented population, which is often younger and healthier, could actually help improve risk in insurance pools.
While this makes access to health insurance an important issue for everyone in California, it is particularly important to a series of fourteen communities being supported by The California Endowment (TCE) under its “Building Healthy Communities” (BHC) program. These areas – ranging from Santa Ana to South Sacramento, from South L.A. to West Fresno, from City Heights in San Diego to Richmond in the Bay Area – have significant undocumented populations that report very low rates of insurance coverage.
Research suggests that expanding access to medical insurance could be a gain for the future of the state. But getting there requires not just facts but vision, values, and strategies. The fourteen BHC communities are working with others in a campaign called “Health4All” to try to build public will and remedy the gaps. We suggest that the Golden State’s decision makers would do well to listen to their arguments: since mass deportation is unlikely and comprehensive immigration reform seems inevitable (even if distant), the real choice facing the state is whether or not we provide the right policies and programs for a healthy California.
Marcelli, E. A., Pastor, M. & Wallace, S. P. (2015). Toward a Healthy California: Why Improving Access to Medical Insurance for Unauthorized Immigrants Matters For the Golden State. Retrieved from https://dornsife.usc.edu/assets/sites/731/docs/Toward_A_Healthy_CA_Literature_Review_Web_Final_Dec2015A.pdf