I was dismayed to read the recent Los Angeles Times article about the number of welfare recipients in the San Fernando Valley for many reasons:
First, the article confused welfare (which to most people means a monthly government check, and which is not available to undocumented people) with Medi-Cal, which is health insurance for certain groups of poor people.
Second, although it was stated three times that changes in eligibility for Medi-Cal have caused an increase in the number of welfare applicants, these changes in the Medi-Cal program took place between 1986 and 1988. It does not necessarily follow that three to five years later, in 1991, the number of welfare applicants increased, a connection your article states explicitly.
And except for one example, the article failed to make the important connection between the loss of jobs, the resultant loss of health insurance and the increase in applicants for Medi-Cal.
"Welfare," when it refers to money, is not available to undocumented people. In 1986, undocumented people across the nation became eligible for Medicaid, or Medi-Cal in this state, to cover emergencies. In 1988, undocumented women in California became eligible for pregnancy-related care. The article repeatedly referred to "welfare benefits" without making the above distinction.
While the article also discussed the increase in the unemployment rate and the weak economy as reasons for an increase in welfare applicants, it is unfortunate that it will probably serve to fuel anti-immigrant, anti-welfare recipient hysteria.
LYNN KERSEY. \o7 Kersey is director of the maternal and child health advocacy project of the Children's Advocacy Institute\f7