California Democrats to Reintroduce Plan to Expand Medi-Cal to Undocumented Immigrants

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Credits: Healthy California website

Three California Democratic state lawmakers are seeking to expand Medi-Cal benefits to undocumented immigrants in the state.

Medi-Cal is the state’s Medicaid or public health insurance program for low-income adults, children, the elderly, people with disabilities, and pregnant women.

On Monday, Democratic Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula promised to reintroduce a bill to extend access to the state’s public health insurance program regardless of their immigration status.

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Outgoing Democratic state Senator Ricardo Lara incoming state Senator Maria Elena Durazo are planning to introduce similar measures.

In 2014, Lara proposed SB 1005, Health for All Act to provide health care coverage to remaining uninsured Californians. The bill will expand Medi-Cal benefits to low-income undocumented immigrants. It will also create a new health exchange where undocumented immigrants can buy health insurance.

Last year, Lara and Sen. Toni Atkins introduced Senate Bill 562, Healthy California Act to create universal health coverage for all Californians. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon called it “woefully incomplete,” which killed the measure.

California is currently providing Medi-Cal benefits for undocumented children

Currently, immigrant children without legal status are eligible for Medi-Cal benefits under the Health for All Kids Act, which was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in 2015. Lara is the author of the legislation, which now covers more than 200,000 children.

California is also providing limited Medi-Cal benefits including pregnancy and emergency care to undocumented immigrants 19 years old and above.

The California Immigrant Policy Center supports legislation to expand Medi-Cal benefits to undocumented immigrants. Its spokesman, Carolina Gamero said, “It’s something that is urgently needed across immigrant communities in California. The longer that we wait and the longer we keep up this unjust exclusion, it’s really setting back California.”

Advocates for universal healthcare are hopeful that incoming Governor Gavin Newsom will prioritize the issue.  During his campaign, Newsom promised to expand access to health care coverage.

Health Access California spokesperson Rachel Linn Gish, opined, “You cannot talk about universal health care in California unless you talk about health care for the undocumented.”