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California to expand Medi-Cal for undocumented immigrants beginning in May

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KION) UPDATE APRIL 29, 2022 at 11:57 a.m.--  Starting May 1, about 235,000 undocumented people ages 50 and older will gain new access to Medi-Cal, regardless of immigration status.

A second proposal was also revealed in Governor Gavin Newsom's January budget that would help 700,000 undocumented adults ages 26 to 49, beginning in 2024. If approved in this year's final budget children and young adults would already be eligible.

“This is a great achievement and it is absolutely amazing, but there will still be some who will remain uninsured,” said Arturo Vargas Bustamante, health policy professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. “It’s not universal health care, but the situation for many immigrants in California will be much better.”

After Medi-Cal expands in 2020 for undocumented immigrants ages 50 and older about 3.2 million.  Of those, 1.16 million will be unauthorized immigrants.  

ORIGINAL STORY

Universal health coverage is one of the most sweeping changes proposed by Governor Gavin Newsom in his newly-revealed 2022-23 state budget proposal.

Newsom's proposal calls for expanding eligibility to Medi-Cal for all low-income Californians — regardless of age or immigration status.

The state is expecting a $45.7 billion surplus. The governor's office estimated the cost for universal healthcare at nearly $614 million for the upcoming fiscal year and $2.2 billion annually after that. Universal access would be fully implemented by January 2024.

"We have universal health care in this state and in this country, but it's on the back end. It's called the emergency room, and it's costing you, the taxpayer, a fortune," said Gov. Newsom during a press conference Tuesday.

Currently, undocumented Californians make up the largest group of the uninsured population, according to the UC Berkeley Labor Center. Nearly 1.3 million under the age of 65 were projected to be uninsured.

Under this plan, Medi-Cal coverage would be extended to an additional 700,000 Californians, provided they meet the income criteria: for a family of four, that means making less than $36,570.  

"The ability to increase their health care would obviously allow them to have more money in their pockets to spend at local stores, to spend on other family needs and other basic needs," said Raymon Cansino, CEO of Community Bridges in Santa Cruz County, a nonprofit which works to provide equal access to resources for low-income and undocumented individuals.

Cansino says the proposal will cover many of those who are most vulnerable — a problem highlighted during the last two years of the pandemic.

"There's a lot of correlation with wages and how you're able to deal with this pandemic. Not everyone can afford to get free delivery to their house. Not everyone has the luxury of staying at home and working from home. So all those different realities cause people to be more exposed and to also have a greater need of health care services," said Cansino.

He says investing now will help lower costs in the long term.

"To make California healthier for the future and to reduce costs over the long run. Because if we're not doing that now, we're going to do it when the person is really ill and health care in terms of emergency costs is a lot more expensive than a regular doctor visits."

The state legislature has until June 15 to pass the new budget, and Gov. Newsom has until June 30 to sign it into law.

Watch Gov. Newsom's press conference highlighting the universal healthcare plan below:

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Lisa Principi

Lisa Principi is a reporter at KION News Channel 5/46.

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