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Undocumented Californians Will Soon Receive Access to Medi-Cal Coverage

September 1, 2021 by Alexa Hornbeck
California Gov. Gavin Newsom at the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington. (Photo by Dan McCue)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law AB 133, an expansion of Medi-Cal that will provide coverage to undocumented Californians age 50 and over, set to go into effect in May 2022. 

“Accessing health coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program will not generally risk immigration status,” wrote a CMS spokesperson in an email to TWN.

The health care trailer bill, AB 133 will be expanded to 235,000 low-income undocumented Californians age 50 and older. 

For an undocumented immigrant to receive Medicaid in California, the current yearly income must be equivalent to $17,609 or less, and for a couple it must be $23,792 or less.

In some cases, a qualified non-citizen, such as Lawful Permanent Resident holders, commonly referred to as green card holders, may be subject to a five-year waiting period from the date they receive their green card to obtain full Medi-Cal benefits. 

During that five-year waiting period, green card holders and those with Temporary Protected Status may only be eligible to receive coverage for treatment of an emergency medical condition.

However, there are individuals exempt from the five-year waiting period, and the list includes refugees, asylum seekers, and Compact of Free Association migrants, who are individuals from federated states such as Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau.

The law will also advance an initiative to transform the delivery of Medi-Cal to better manage risk, improve outcomes through whole person care approaches, and address the social determinants of health.

As an example, the law will extend the Medi-Cal postpartum care period for undocumented immigrants from 60 days to 12 months without requiring a mental health diagnosis, and transform the behavioral health system for California youth.

Telehealth flexibilities offered during the pandemic will also continue through December 2022.

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