In public policy win, California to open health care to previously excluded undocumented residents

In public policy win, California to open health care to previously excluded undocumented residents

Hundreds of thousands more Californians will now be insured, after Governor Gavin Newsom and state leaders reached a budget agreement this week that provides access to health care to all income-eligible residents regardless of immigration status.

It is a historic first for any state in the nation, policy experts said. “By removing immigration status as an eligibility barrier to Medi-Cal, California is building a more universal, efficient, and equitable health care system for all who call California home,” said Jose Torres, Policy and Legislative Advocate at Health Access California. “Health care is a human right, and our health system is stronger when everyone is included.”

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California Immigrant Policy Center said in a statement that the final budget agreement agreed upon this week by state leaders is expected to open up comprehensive Medi-Cal coverage to approximately 700,000 previously excluded undocumented Californians ages 26-49. “This is expected to lead to the largest drop in the rate of uninsured Californians in a decade.”

“The #Health4All coalition, consisting of over 180 state and national organizations committed to health and racial justice, has worked alongside communities for nearly a decade to lead California to achieving this victory, beginning with winning full-scope Medi-Cal for all low-income children, regardless of immigration status, in 2016,” the center continued. “Subsequent advocacy led to removing Medi-Cal exclusions for undocumented young adults ages 19-25 in 2020. And in May of this year, California began opening Medi-Cal to all income-eligible adults ages 50 and older.” 

Adrienne, a California resident, said she hoped that the policy changes mean her daughter “does not have to face the hardships when she turns 26 and ages out of the current system.”

“I came to the U.S. 15 years ago as a single mom and learned to navigate the complicated health care system by myself,” she said in the statement. “Having access to health care meant that I was able to take care of myself and my daughter. Even though my daughter’s immigration status was in process at that time, she was able to receive full-scope Medi-Cal because of #Health4All.”

Not only is this humane policy, it is effective public health policy. “Approximately 700,000 Californians, who were among our most essential workers during the pandemic, will become eligible for health care coverage,” said state senator María Elena Durazo. “Many of these Californians with no access to preventative and follow-up health care, risked their health and safety so that other Californians could shelter in place.” 

“Our state—and the entire health care system we all rely on—works better when every Californian, regardless of where they were born, has access to the resources they need to be well and thrive,” Torres continued.

“As we continue to remove exclusions to critical safety net programs for all Californians, the Health4All coalition is committed to ensuring that these policy changes are implemented in a clear and equitable fashion, and that all eligible individuals are able to enroll without interruption, and as soon as possible,” California Immigrant Policy Center continued. “The coalition urges everyone who is eligible now to enroll in coverage through Medi-Cal. If you are yet to be eligible, you or your loved one can enroll now in ‘restricted-scope’ Medi-Cal, and be moved automatically to comprehensive coverage when coverage for 26-49-year-olds begins.”

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