Bioethics Blogs

California’s Strides in Providing Health Care for Undocumented Immigrants

I had just turned 5 in November 1994 when my fellow Californians voted to pass Proposition 187 in a draconian attempt to restrict undocumented immigrants from receiving health care, education, and other services, as well as to require doctors, teachers, and others to report those suspected of violating immigration law to the authorities. The key provisions of this initiative were, thankfully, deemed unconstitutional before it was implemented, but it came far too close for comfort.

I bring this up because recent events indicate a paradigmatic shift in California’s response to undocumented immigrants’ need for health care that has given me cause to be quite proud of my home state. In the past month, California has become one of the foremost champions of undocumented immigrant rights. The transformation started on June 2 with the passage of SB 4 by the California Senate. SB 4 expands Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program) coverage to all undocumented children below age 19, and it opens up the state insurance exchange to undocumented adults. The bill remains in limbo, awaiting approval from the Assembly and Governor Jerry Brown, but on June 24, the governor signed the state budget, which included one key provision of the bill: funding to expand Medi-Cal to include all children – regardless of immigration status – beginning in May 2016.

California joins New York, Washington, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Washington DC in providing health care to all children.  California is home to 22 percent of the nation’s undocumented population: 600,000 more than the aforementioned states combined, and threefold more than the next highest state on that list, New York.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.