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California will become the first state to offer all undocumented immigrants, regardless of age, state-subsidized health insurance. It’s expected to take effect in 2024 and it will make California the first state to achieve universal access to health coverage.
The historic move was part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) 2022-2023 state budget allocation, which includes expanding the state’s Medi-Cal program. That provides state-funded health insurance to eligible residents and will now cover an additional 700,000 undocumented residents ages 26-49 beginning no later than Jan. 1, 2024.
Medi-Cal already offers coverage to undocumented immigrants if they are younger than 26, over the age of 50 or a recipient of the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
The expansion of Medi-Cal is expected to lead to the largest drop in the rate of uninsured Californians in a decade. Undocumented Californians make up the largest group of the state’s uninsured, with the University of California Berkley’s Labor Center projecting nearly 1.3 million individuals under the age of 65 are uninsured in 2022 alone.
State Sen. María Elena Durazo hailed the expansion of Medi-Cal as a budget victory and said the state is, “one step closer to ending the outdated and discriminatory policy that prevents undocumented Californians from accessing affordable health care,” Durazo said in a statement posted to her Twitter account.
“This is a victory for the millions of undocumented Californians who contributed $3.7 billion in state and local taxes and over $40 billion in spending power to our economy ever year.”
According to an estimate by California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), expanding Medi-Cal to eligible undocumented immigrants will cost $2.1 billion on an ongoing basis.
Though California will become the first state to offer health insurance coverage to nearly all undocumented immigrants residing in the state, other states have also made similar moves.
In 2020, Illinois extended its state-funded health care to low-income individuals 65 years old and older who are undocumented. The state has also proposed legislation that would provide state-subsidized health insurance to undocumented immigrants who are 19 to 54-years-old and living at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty line.
Oregon has also proposed the Cover All People Act that would expand its state-sponsored health insurance to all adults who would qualify for Medicaid but for their immigration status.
The Kaiser Family Foundation (KKF) found that noncitizen immigrants are as likely as citizens to work but are significantly more likely to be uninsured due to limited access in both public and private coverage.
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