Older undocumented immigrants to receive Medi-Cal health care in California – Times-Herald

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California plans to expand Medi-Cal health coverage to some 235,000 low-income undocumented immigrants over the age of 50 – providing the most extensive health coverage in the country to those without legal residency.

The state already offers Medi-Cal healthcare to immigrant children and young adults under the age of 26. This latest expansion, once it receives final approval, will mean that many undocumented immigrants, except those between the ages of 26 and 50, will be eligible.

Governor Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers on Friday announced a deal to extend Medi-Cal to older undocumented immigrants as part of the state’s $ 262.6 billion budget. California lawmakers approved the budget on Monday. The Medi-Cal expansion is expected to be voted on Thursday as part of an omnibus health care bill, said Sarah Dar, spokesperson for the California Immigrant Policy Center.

Once approved and signed by Newsom, the program is expected to begin in May of next year. The cost is estimated at $ 1.3 billion per year. Advocates said the cost could be offset, at least in part, by savings from providing medical care to people before they have to rush to a hospital emergency room.

“We were already responsible for covering them on an urgent and limited basis. Now we’re expanding it… and they get all the services without restrictions, ”said California Senator Maria Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, referring to low-income undocumented residents.

Most of the people who will soon be eligible, Durazo said, have already signed up at some point for emergency services, which are paid for by the state.

“This is not a smart use of our funds,” Durazo said at the Zoom press conference. “It’s much better to use our funds for preventive primary health care.

Immigrant rights advocates present the healthcare plan as a major victory.

“It has been a priority for our organization for many years. We celebrate and thank our lawmakers and our governor for taking action, ”said Luz Gallegos, executive director of the immigrant rights group TODEC Legal Center, based in Perris.

“It’s personal for us. Health is a human right, ”said Gallegos, who has lost two uncles in recent years, one to stroke and the other to cancer. Her uncles did not seek preventive care because they did not have health insurance.

Opponents blame the proposals for serving people who broke the law by entering or staying in the United States illegally. This money, they argue, should be spent on American citizens struggling to pay their medical bills.

“We have so many problems right now. We have homeless people, people behind in rent, unemployed people, and now we are going to give medical benefits to foreigners, immigrants, who should not be in this country. Why, why do we have an obligation to do this when we should take care of our own first? Said Betty Robinson, resident of Tustin, a longtime activist against illegal immigration.

“It’s another incentive for people to come here. It’s going to affect future generations, ”Robinson said.

Redlands resident John Berry, California’s Tea Party Patriots coordinator, said he was out of town and unaware of the latest undocumented healthcare plan. But he wasn’t surprised.

“This is one of the many reasons the governor is being recalled. This state is in such a financial doo-doo. Yet it extends the benefits we can’t afford to people who shouldn’t be here. What part of illegal don’t you understand. It’s typical of Newsom, ”Berry said. “That’s why people are leaving California.”

The extension of health care coverage to all residents, regardless of their immigration status, has been underway since at least 2014, when the former member of the Assembly Ricardo Lara first proposed it. This bill failed, but it paved the way for a Law of 2016 which extended coverage to children. And last year, the state extended care to young adults up to age 26. California is home to approximately 2.3 million people who do not have legal immigration status.

On Tuesday, Lara, now the state health insurance commissioner, participated in a press conference on Zoom with several lawyers and lawmakers, including the two lawmakers who introduced the bill – Durazo and the member of Assembly Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno. During the call, Lara and others explained why they support healthcare for undocumented migrants, many of whom work and pay taxes without receiving all the benefits of the safety net.

“California immigrants have given so much to our state and now they have the dignity of accessing health care,” said Lara. “Especially during the pandemic, we know our essential workers are taking care of America, feeding America and delivering for America and they have paid the ultimate price. “

Durazo said: “It’s not just another step. It is a big step forward. “

Durazo said when the talks started the idea was to offer coverage to low-income undocumented residents aged 65 and over, which has already been tried but failed. But the negotiations expanded the group to include people 60 and over and, later, people over 50.

“Sooner or later we’ll close that gap,” said Durazo, referring to advocates’ goal of offering the state’s version of the federal Medicaid program to all income-eligible residents, regardless of their status. immigration.

Meanwhile, the planned expansion will help people like the parents of Jonatan Gutierrez, a Santa Ana resident who works at the Orange County LGBTQ center. Last year, during the pandemic, her father was unemployed and the family worried about how to pay for her mother’s diabetes care. “It really reminded me how important and crucial it is for everyone who lives here in California to be able to access health insurance,” said Gutierrez.

While California was the first in the country to extend health care coverage to undocumented young adults, Illinois became the first earlier this year to offer it to seniors without legal immigration status. . A coalition also pushed lawmakers to include all ages, but Illinois lawmakers opted for a smaller program, offering it to those aged 65 and over.


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