By Lourdes Bernal
Getting health care has always been a battle for undocumented, low-income Californians. It has always meant waiting until the last minute to visit a provider, and trying to downplay pain and discomfort from illness or injuries.
The parents of undocumented children work extra hard to pay bills and put food on the table, and many young people are conscious of the added stress of paying for health care. Many undocumented children minimize care to maximize their family’s security.
Thanks to legislation enacted in 2012, many young people have become eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which is a program that allows undocumented young people to be employed legally and be eligible to receive Medi-Cal, our state’s Medicaid assistance program for low-income Californians. This helped a lot, but many young people who were ineligible for DACA were still left out.
This year Medi-Cal expanded to include all income-eligible children and youth under 19, regardless of immigration status. This historic expansion provides thousands of kids in California with access to previously restricted care.
At the California School-Based Health Alliance, I work closely with schools in the Bay Area to spread awareness about this opportunity so more parents can enroll their kids in coverage. My goal is to create a pathway to access for the many students who feel that health care is not an option for them because of the cost and because of where they were born.
I am proud I can help parents understand there are options for their children to access health care, and that doing so does not come at the risk of financial burdens, or worse, separation and deportation. I take pride in sharing new options for coverage with parents who are sacrificing so much so their children can thrive.
Free resources on expanded Medi-Cal:
This outreach is personal to me because I understand the vital importance of having access to care. I’ve seen how access provides you with the opportunity to live better in this place we call home.
I am also proud to be working in partnership with school-based health centers because, in addition to providing vital access to care, they give children and youth a safe space to be themselves without fear. School-based health centers are an important part of an education system that makes it possible for young people to dream, thrive, and succeed.
I believe in expanded Medi-Cal and #Health4All because I know that California is stronger when we are all healthy.
Lourdes Bernal is the Communications Program Assistant at the California School-Based Health Alliance and is helping schools educate parents and students about expanded Medi-Cal for all kids.