One out of every six nonelderly Americans without health insurance lives in California. The problem of access to competent and dependable health care is especially problematic among the state's minority, and especially Hispanic,population. Because one-third of the country's Hispanics live in California,how this state deals with health access issues will affect the practice and progress toward universal care in the nation as a whole. Expanding health care access to California's dependent population will involve overcoming a number of well-known administrative and fiscal obstacles, including an underfunded,highly fragmented public health care system that has developed incrementally and incoherently over decades. However, a key to understanding the problem of access to health care in California involves a story of how ethnic conflict and partisan politics often conspire to deny or discourage access for eligible women and children.

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