FRESNO, Calif. — Veronica Morales’s daughter said the Emergency Medi-Cal card she had didn’t cover her eye exams, let alone the costs of her prescription lenses.
The fact that it was so restrictive in its coverage made the family feel uneasy, Morales said at a media briefing here May 16, organized by State Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, the day his Health For All Kids Act launched.
On that day, the teenager and thousands of other children, transitioned to full-scope Medi-Cal, California’s version of Medicaid, the public health insurance program for all low-income individuals.
Under Lara’s Health For All Kids Act, an estimated 170,000 undocumented children under 19 years of age are expected to enroll in the program that will be funded by the state.
President Obama’s Affordable Care Act barred undocumented adults and children from benefiting from Medi-Cal. That has left nearly 2.6 million California residents, including children, uninsured. Lara’s Health For All Kids program, plus two other bills currently in the legislation, will cover many of those left uninsured.
At the May 16 event, representatives from The California Endowment, Building Healthy Communities and local families joined Lara at Fresno’s Clinica Sierra Vista, where health navigators were busy signing up children in full-scope Medi-Cal.
According to Reyna Villalobos, the clinic’s director of community programs, 12 children transitioned to full-scope Medi-Cal that day and 13 children newly enrolled. Dozens of parents called to inquire.
Lara shared with the gathering his own personal experience growing up as the child of undocumented parents in the United States.
When his parents fell sick, he said, they had to drive all the way to Mexico to seek medical care.
“We were worried about what was going to happen to (them). We had access but they didn’t. So, this issue is very near and dear to my heart. And now that I have the opportunity, by the grace of God, to serve as a California State Senator, you bet that I’m going to continue to fight for families like my parents.”
Lara acknowledged the support of Governor Jerry Brown, who in in his May revision budget included more money for the Health for All Kids program.
“Initially we had asked for $132 million, in his May revise he has put $188 million. This has allowed for us to increase the number of children that are going to be able to take advantage of this service from 170,000 to 185,000.”
Morales and her daughter had come to the clinic to celebrate the launch of the program.
“I’m interested in the health of my daughter, more than anything else,” Morales said in Spanish at the briefing. The Emergency Medi-Cal insurance she had “didn’t cover problems with her eyes, her teeth or if she has a problem with her stomach.”