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California Budget Expands Health Care For Older Undocumented Immigrants

July 6, 2021 by Daniel Mollenkamp
California State Capitol. (Wikimedia Commons)

In California, undocumented immigrants over the age of 50 will soon be able to sign up for Medi-Cal, the state’s low-income health care program.

The update is just one of the expansions included in the state budget, which also has spending increases for a range of policy aims, from addressing homelessness to rebounding from the impact of coronavirus. 

Another health care-related update in the budget is the removal of the “asset test” for seniors that limited enrollment in Medi-Cal based on a means test. And the state budget, approved this week, had $105.7 million meant to go towards extra Medi-Cal enrollment related to scratching out the asset test requirement, according to reporting from CalMatters, a California-based nonprofit newsroom.

According to state analysis of Medi-Cal spending from earlier this year, the program gave coverage to about 13 million people in the state as of March.

However, the latest inclusion of undocumented immigrants in state-funded health care coverage prompted reports that suggested that the group was at-risk under the previous rules.

The Public Policy Institute of California recently published a study that reviewed California’s attempts to make health care accessible to undocumented immigrants in the state and found that they are under-served.

The report found that the health care safety net that is meant to serve this community is “uneven across geography, by age group, and in some cases by health needs.”

This, the study reported, despite the fact that undocumented immigrants and their relations do not use emergency services more. 

If the state were to expand affordable insurance coverage, the report suggested, it might start to plug the gaps in coverage for this group. 

Polls conducted by PPIC earlier in the year suggested that public opinion in California increasingly favors a more inclusive health care system. A poll from March of this year, for example, reported that 66% of California voters would approve of health care coverage for undocumented immigrants, which PPIC connected partly to the coronavirus focusing voter’s attention on the consequences for individuals lacking adequate health care coverage. 

That poll also reported that voters expressed “strong bipartisan support” for a pathway to citizenship, with 85% of California voters approving. That result has remained consistent across PPIC polls, suggesting continued support for a pathway to citizenship in the state.

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