Newsom offers healthcare to seniors without legal immigration status
California would allow seniors living illegally in the country to apply for the state’s health care program for low-income residents as part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s revised budget proposal unveiled on Friday.
The $ 859 million extension of Medi-Cal eligibility to cover adults 60 or older, regardless of immigration status, comes as state coffers have been filled with a massive influx of tax revenue. But with the governor pegging the surplus at more than $ 75 billion, Democratic lawmakers who have long pushed to extend Medi-Cal eligibility to all immigrants without legal status – which would cost $ 2 billion – say they will do more in the next budget negotiations. .
“Our ultimate goal is everyone,” Senator Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) said in asking for more coverage. “I think we are in the best position than ever to make more meaningful progress than ever. We will continue to push to include more uninsured people. “
Newsom’s budget documents called its proposal a “milestone on the road to universal health coverage.” The state would begin offering Medi-Cal coverage to adults 60 and older without legal status from May 2022 as part of Newsom’s plan.
California’s Medi-Cal system already covers immigrant youth up to the age of 26. The state first offered Medi-Cal coverage to children living illegally in the country up to the age of 18 in 2016. Young adults were eligible for coverage last year after California expanded coverage. age limit so that it mirrors that of the Affordable Care Act, which allows a person to remain on a parent’s health insurance plan until the age of 26. At the time, Newsom called the enlargement eligibility “the right thing to do.”
During Newsom’s budget presentation in January 2020, the governor proposed extending coverage to people aged 65 and over without legal status, but the plan was scrapped when the pandemic struck and threatened the finances of the ‘State. Now full of cash, Newsom’s revised budget unveiled on Friday lowered the age to 60. His proposal will now undergo a month of legislative review and negotiations before a final spending plan is approved by June 15.
Advocacy groups said they would call on lawmakers and Newsom to go further in providing health care to immigrants without legal status, many of whom held vital jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic but were not eligible for federal relief programs and unemployment benefits. A California Institute of Public Policy poll in March found that 66% of Californians support the provision of health coverage to immigrants who are in the country illegally.
“Everyone has been talking for a year or more about how some communities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, such as undocumented and low-income Californians,” said Sarah Dar, director of health policy and benefits. audiences at the California Immigrant Policy Center. . “Now with the $ 75 billion we need to fix these structural issues and make sure the safety net programs help all communities. Now is the time to do whatever we can. “
Newsom on Friday maintained its phased approach to expanding access to Medi-Cal, saying it was aware of the pressure such a commitment would have on future budgets.
“One-off surpluses can quickly give way to one-time deficits,” Newsom said. “And making continued multi-billion dollar commitments avoids opportunities to do the same in other areas.”
The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimated this month that nearly one million immigrants living illegally in the country would be covered by Medi-Cal if legal immigration status was removed as a prerequisite for all groups of people. ‘age – at a cost of $ 2.1 billion a year from the general of the state. funds.
However, the analyst’s office warned that “both our workload and our cost estimates are subject to significant uncertainty.”
The cost of expanding eligibility to immigrants without legal status falls entirely on California, despite the mix of federal and state money that typically constitutes Medi-Cal funding. The Affordable Care Act prohibits the use of federal dollars to cover immigrants who are in the United States illegally.
Medi-Cal currently covers one-third of California residents, with some critics of the expanded eligibility arguing that the program already suffers from long wait times. Low-income immigrants are currently eligible for limited Medi-Cal coverage regardless of their immigration status, but such care is limited to emergency and pregnancy-related services.
“It’s not as if undocumented migrants aren’t part of our health care system,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of advocacy group Health Access. “They just get care in the most expensive place – the emergency room. Now they would have access to primary care, which is a better way to provide care at the start.