California provided free health insurance to all illegal immigrants - ForumDaily
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California provides free health insurance to all illegal immigrants

California became the first state to offer health insurance to all undocumented immigrants. Since January 1, about 700 adults aged 000 to 26 have become eligible for the program, reports ABC.

Photo: IStock

Starting Jan. 1, all undocumented immigrants, regardless of age, are eligible for Medi-Cal, California's version of the federal Medicaid program for low-income people.

Previously, in 2014, undocumented immigrants were not eligible for comprehensive health insurance. They were allowed to receive emergency care and pregnancy-related services through Medi-Cal if they met eligibility requirements, including income limits and California residency.

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In 2015, undocumented children were able to join Medi-Cal under a bill signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown.

In 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation expanding full access to Medi-Cal to young people ages 19 to 25, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. Access was then expanded to allow seniors age 50 and older to receive full benefits, also regardless of immigration status.

In 2019, Donald Trump criticized the plan, calling it "very unfair to our citizens."

“If you look at what they do in California, how they treat people, they don't treat their own people as well as they treat illegal immigrants,” Trump told reporters at the time. “So, at what point does this stop?” It's crazy what they do. This is madness. And it’s despicable, and it’s very unfair to our citizens.”

The final expansion made approximately 700 undocumented residents between the ages of 000 and 26 eligible for full coverage.

“This historic investment demonstrates California's commitment to health care as a human right,” said California State Senator Maria Elena Durazo Durazo.

Criticism of innovation

California's expansion plan is not without its detractors. The California Senate Republican Caucus criticized the move in its review of the governor's 2022-2023 budget.

“Medi-Cal is already overwhelmed serving 14,6 million Californians—more than a third of the state’s population. Adding another 764 people to the system will certainly exacerbate current service provider access problems,” the group wrote.

Senate Minority Leader Brian Jones also condemned the move, citing the cost.

“According to the latest analysis from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst Office, providing Medi-Cal to all undocumented immigrants would cost the state more than $6,5 billion a year,” he said. “With more than 2023 undocumented migrants crossing into California at the Mexico border in 300 alone, the costs of this program will only increase. If Democratic politicians are the responsible leaders they say they are, they should freeze Medi-Cal expansion for illegal immigrants while we balance the budget.”

Language barrier and fear

Studies have shown that undocumented immigrants use fewer health care resources than nonimmigrants.

About 50% of undocumented immigrant adults in America report they are uninsured, compared with just 8% of U.S.-born citizens, according to health policy research nonprofit KFF. Undocumented adults are more likely to work in jobs that do not provide health benefits. They also face restrictions on participating in federal programs.

Undocumented immigrants who are eligible may face other barriers, such as confusion about eligibility, language issues and fear, KFF says.

Low-income undocumented immigrants in California are about as likely to have at least one chronic condition as those currently enrolled in Medi-Cal.

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The California Health and Human Services Agency has committed $835,6 million in 2023-2024 and $2,6 billion annually thereafter to expand full Medi-Cal eligibility to all adults, regardless of immigration status.

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