Advancement Project Closing the Opportunity Gap

Access to Care: Improved Quality of Life and Reduced Health Disparities for Californians

Pediatrician Visiting Father And Child In Hospital Bed

By Jonathan Nomachi

Why Access to Care is an Equity Issue

Access to health care services is vital for everyone to live healthy, productive lives. It provides the opportunity for people to receive health services when needed and take proactive, preventive steps in maintaining a good quality of life. Advancement Project California believes that access to health care is a basic human right, regardless of race, immigration status, or income.

Having access to care leads to:

  • Improved health outcomes for individuals and families;
  • Decreased burdens on safety-net providers (emergency rooms and clinics); and
  • An overall healthier workforce.

Access to care is particularly important for low-income communities of color who are disproportionately impacted by poorer health outcomes (infant mortality, diabetes, cardiovascular disease), while also facing an inequitable distribution of health-promoting resources – hospitals/clinics, healthy food outlets, adequate transportation options, employment opportunities –  in their neighborhoods.

Our Approach to Access to Care

The Health Equity Program is excited to join partners in the fight to ensure access to timely, affordable, and high-quality health care for all Californians. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has created an exciting opportunity to minimize barriers to insurance coverage and health services, but many people are still left behind. In particular, undocumented immigrants are explicitly excluded from receiving the benefits through ACA, which can also negatively impact family members with a legal status.

Our Health Equity program incorporates existing expertise in policy research, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and community engagement to build equitable health care systems through policy and systems efforts that target:

  • Affordable, high quality healthcare for all Californians;
  • The equitable distribution of health care resources, particularly for those in low-income communities; and
  • A robust safety-net system that adequately supports those ineligible or struggling to afford health coverage and services

We partner with statewide advocates and participate in key coalitions to leverage our expertise. We will lift up the needs of underserved and under-resourced communities in future health policy and planning processes.

Keeping the Momentum towards Health for All

California continues to be a leader in providing health coverage to all living in our great state.  In 2015, lawmakers passed legislation and allocated funding to expand Medi-Cal (California’s insurance program for low-income residents) coverage to undocumented immigrants under 19 years of age. The recent passage of SB10 will authorize all adults, regardless of immigration status to purchase health insurance through Covered California, the state health exchange. Riding the current wave of successful health care victories, there is work to be done to address full health care expansion and utilization.

Some key demands include:

1.    Expand Medi-Cal coverage to adults, regardless of immigration status

Senator Lara introduced SB1418 to extend Medi-Cal eligibility to individuals 19 years of age and older regardless of immigration status. This bill would allow low-income and immigrant families to make health care choices as a family, as opposed to fragmented health coverage and services that create barriers to health care utilization within families.

2.    Increase utilization and meet the demand of new health care consumers

Access to primary and, more importantly, specialty care providers remains a challenge for low-income families and those living in rural communities. Efforts to increase providers and other health care resources within rural areas and communities of color is important to the easing of excessive burden placed currently on local community clinics and other safety-net providers.

3.    Identify innovative ways to improve services to those struggling to afford health care

California is currently undergoing a collaborative, statewide process with elected officials and advocates to implement the recently approved Medi-Cal 2020 1115 waiver, which could strengthen coordinated care for low-income and uninsured Californians.

We look forward to working with community members, advocates, and elected officials in completing the job of #Health4All and establishing a new ‘culture of health’ where everyone has access to health care resources that are affordable and utilized effectively to improve health outcomes.

Additional Information

Learn more about the Health Equity Program, or contact Jonathan Nomachi for more information at jnomachi@advanceproj.org or (213) 989-1300.


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