(CTN News) – The Golden State will ring in the new year by pioneering universal health coverage for illegal immigrants.
As of January 1, all undocumented immigrants in California will be eligible for Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program for low-income individuals, regardless of their age.
Before 2014, undocumented immigrants could only get Medi-Cal for pregnancy-related treatments and emergencies if they met certain criteria, such as income limits and California residency. However, they could not get complete health insurance.
In 2015, a bill was signed into law by then-Gov. Jerry Brown allowed children who were not citizens to enrol in Medi-Cal. Unrestricted access to Medi-Cal for young adults (ages 19–25), regardless of citizenship or immigration status, was expanded in 2019 by Gov.
Gavin Newsom. Full benefits are now available to all persons 50 and up, regardless of immigration status, thanks to an even more expansive expansion of access.
According to María Elena Durazo, a state senator from California, some 700,000 illegal residents aged 26 to 49 will be eligible for full coverage once the final expansion takes effect on January 1.
“This historic investment speaks to California’s commitment to health care as a human right,” Durazo stated in May.
In a statement provided to ABC News by the office of Governor Gavin Newsom, the state advocated for universal access to affordable, high-quality health care regardless of a person’s financial situation or immigration status.
“By implementing this expansion, our goal is to improve the health, well-being, and accessibility of patients and their communities throughout California.”
Some have opposed California’s plan to increase access to health insurance. In their review of the governor’s budget for 2022–23, the Republican Caucus in the California Senate panned the proposal.
Serving 14.6 million Californians, or over one-third of the state’s population, puts pressure on Medi-Cal. “The current provider access problems will certainly be worsened by adding 764,000 more individuals to the system,” the caucus said last year.
Nonetheless, research has demonstrated that compared to non-immigrants, undocumented immigrants make less use of healthcare services.
The health policy research nonprofit KFF found that compared to U.S.-born citizens, about half of undocumented immigrant adults in the US do not have health insurance.
This is because, among other things, undocumented adults are more likely to work for employers that do not offer health benefits and face restrictions when trying to enrol in federal programs.
Further obstacles, such as misunderstandings over eligibility, language hurdles, and fear, may be encountered by qualified undocumented immigrants, according to KFF.
Despite studies done by the nonprofit Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) showing that low-income undocumented immigrants in California have a chronic illness rate that is comparable to that of Medi-Cal enrollees, this continues to be the case.
The PPIC also discovered that undocumented immigrants are at a rate comparable to Medi-Cal patients when it comes to receiving preventive services like flu shots, and when it comes to receiving age-appropriate health services like shingles vaccines and cancer screenings, they are about the same.
Expanding full-scope Medi-Cal coverage to all income-eligible individuals, regardless of immigration status, will receive $835.6 million in 2023-24 and $2.6 billion year afterwards, according to the California Health and Human Services Agency.
Former President Trump criticized the 2019 California healthcare expansion, which included illegal young adults, describing it as “very unfair to our citizens.”
“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,” Trump stated to the media at the time. When does it end, then? I can’t believe they’re doing this. There’s no way. And it’s cruel and unjust to the people of our country.