This year, we focused on supporting legislative measures to address and improve the health of our communities and reduce health disparities via chronic disease prevention, promoting safe and vibrant communities, increasing equitable access to health care, and working toward just immigration reform.
We are proud that two of our co-sponsored bills have been signed into law: SB 1310 (Lara) and AB 2102 (Ting). SB 1310 addresses issues of immigration and AB 2102 will help to create a more culturally and linguistically competent health care workforce.
While we successfully pushed two bills through to signature, our efforts were not without their challenges. The lessons learned from this legislative cycle will drive our focus next session and help us continue to make California a healthier state!
Just Immigration Reform
While there is a cloud of uncertainty on immigration reform at the federal level, immigration is an issue that is discussed every day in California.
Just this July, Governor Brown signed SB 1310, which will reduce deportations for minor crimes and help keep immigrant families together. LCHC worked closely with experts in the field and co-sponsors including, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), and Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA). These partners saw the urgent need for this sentencing reform, which will impact the health and stability of many immigrant families. Prior to this bill, a lawfully present immigrant could face deportation due to a minor crime, such as writing a bad check.
California’s Legislative Latino Caucus and the Governor also took a leadership role to tackle a federal and international immigration crisis that lead to more than 60,000 unaccompanied children from Central America crossing the U.S. border. These children have been held in detention centers under questionable conditions. “Helping these young people navigate our legal system is the decent thing to do and it’s consistent with the progressive spirit of California,” stated Governor Brown. Another piece of legislation, SB 873, allocates $3 million to designated nonprofits who can assist these children with legal representation.
Health Care Access
Expanding access to affordable, quality health care was also a major theme this session. Governor Brown signed into law various measures that will improve health care access for Californians by improving the Covered California Exchange, as well as increasing access to Medi-Cal and to preventative services and care.
SB 972 by Senator Torres requires the Covered California Board to include an additional three areas of expertise related to marketing, information technology management, and management of information systems, as well as enrollment counseling assistance. This builds off of the lessons learned from the first enrollment period in order to generate better outcomes for limited-English proficient and other hard-to-reach populations during future Covered California enrollment periods
Another critical bill in the area of health care access is SB 18 (Leno) which assures individuals in Medi-Cal maintain their coverage and services when they go through the renewal process. Under the new law, the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) will receive $6 million for counselors to help Medi-Cal recipients with renewal forms. Earlier this year, DHCS experienced a backlog of 900,000 applications. That has now dropped to one third, however, the challenge remains and these funds will help ensure that Medi-Cal coverage remains accessible for all.
SB 1053 (Mitchell) and AB 1522 (Gonzalez) are two other successes in the area of preventive care. SB 1053 will assure that Californians with a health insurance plan may obtain contraception without restrictions, delays or out-of-pocket costs. AB 1522 requires that workers must be provided with three paid sick days a year which will help workers get the needed treatment to be healthy and get back on their feet without the risk of losing their jobs.
Chronic Disease Prevention
AB 2102 co-sponsored by LCHC and the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, will require the collection of demographic data of allied health professionals. Having this critical information is important to identify gaps in both data and workforce development in order to increase quality of care through a more culturally and linguistically appropriate health care workforce.
Access of healthy food is a critical issue in many parts of the state. This year, Governor Brown signed, AB 2413 (J. Perez) into law, which creates the state Office of Farm to Fork in order to promote and improve access to healthy foods, especially in underserved communities.
LCHC was excited to support AB 1930 (Skinner), which will increase access to Cal Fresh for students. Under current law, it has become difficult for students to become eligible for Cal Fresh unless they work part-time. The bill calls for the Department of Social Services to determine which educational programs can be counted as employment trainings in order to increase Cal Fresh eligibility for students.
While we had some successes this year in the area of health, we know that much work remains. We look forward to working with you on issues that are important to your communities and to the health of all Californians!