Undocumented immigrants in California can now receive health insurance from the state.
When the calendar turned to the New Year, The Golden State made every undocumented immigrant eligible for the state’s Medicaid program version, called Medi-Cal. Regardless of how old the migrants are, they can participate in the program, which is designed to help low-income families.
Before this new law went into effect, undocumented immigrants couldn’t qualify for a comprehensive health insurance plan. They were, however, able to receive care for pregnancies and emergencies under the Medi-Cal program, if they met certain requirements.
Undocumented children could join the state’s Medicaid program starting in 2015 under former Governor Jerry Brown. Then, current Governor Gavin Newsom expanded access to Medi-Cal for people between the ages of 19 and 25 in 2019, regardless of a person’s immigration or citizenship status.
That was expanded once again to include people who are 50 or older so they could receive the full benefits.
This final expansion went into effect at the turn of the New Year. Maria Elena Durazo, a state Senator in California, said that because of the expansion, about 700,000 undocumented immigrants between 26 and 49 years old will now be eligible to receive full health insurance coverage.
As she said as part of a statement in May:
“This historic investment speaks to California’s commitment to health care as a human right.”
Newsom’s office added recently:
“In California, we believe everyone deserves access to quality, affordable health care coverage – regardless of income or immigration status. Through this expansion, we’re making sure families and communities across California are healthier, stronger and able to get the care they need when they need it.”
While California was able to push this expansion of its health care plan through, many Republicans in the state were against it. In an analysis it conducted for the governor’s budget for 2022-2023, the California Senate Republican Caucus wrote:
“Medi-Cal is already strained by serving 14.6 million Californians – more than a third of the state’s population. Adding 764,000 more individuals to the system will certainly exacerbate current provider access problems.”
Back in 2019, when California first expanded the program, Donald Trump – who was president at the time – said the program was “very unfair to our citizens.” As he said then:
“If you look at what they’re doing in California, how they’re treating people, they don’t treat their people as well as they treat illegal immigrants. So, at what point does it stop?”
According to KFF, a research non-profit group focused on health policy, said that despite this new access, not all undocumented immigrants will take advantage. That’s because they are likely to face some barriers such as fear about whether the program is legitimate, challenges in language differences and confusion about whether they’re even eligible.
For the 2023-24 fiscal year, $835.6 million has been allocated to the Medi-Cal expansion program from the state’s Health and Human Services Agency. Every year after that, it will commit $2.6 billion in total to the program so that all adults who are eligible for the program, regardless of their immigration status, will be able to take advantage of it.