California's capital city of SACRAMENTO California became the first state to guarantee free health care for all low-income immigrants living in the country illegally, a move that will provide coverage for an additional 764,000 people at an eventual cost of about $2 billion a year.
All low-income adults in California will be eligible for the state's Medicaid program regardless of their immigration status by the year 2024. Health care and immigration activists have been asking for the change for a long time.
Federal and state governments give free health care to low income people through Medicaid. The federal government will not pay for people who are in the country illegally. Some states, including California, use their own tax dollars to help low-income immigrants pay for healthcare.
California would like to be the first to do that for everyone.
California is in the middle of the pack when it comes to health insurance coverage. Adults living in the country illegally make up one of the largest groups of people without insurance in the state.
Anthony Wright is the executive director of Health Access California, a statewide consumer health care advocacy group. Everyone benefits when everyone is covered.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 22.1 million people are living in the country illegally. They aren't eligible for most public benefit programs because they have jobs.
Immigrants are starting to get access to health care programs. The District of Columbia and five states cover all children from low-income families regardless of their immigration status, while 18 states provide care to people regardless of their immigration status. Medicaid has been expanded in California and Illinois.
Republicans and conservative groups in California oppose expanding health care to immigrants living in the country illegally. California will become a magnet for people who are not legally authorized to enter the country if it offers free health care.
"Many of us are sympathetic to the immigrant community, but we really wish we had better control of who enters this nation and this state."
It will be difficult for California to expand Medicaid. A confluence of events, including the state's slow roll out of the expansion and the end of some federal pandemic policies, mean about 40,000 low-income immigrants will lose their health coverage for up to a year before being able to get it back.
Beatriz was 11 years old when she came to the US. When she was a child, she got Medicaid. When she turned 19 she lost that coverage because of her immigration status, but it was restored in 2020.
His birthday was in February. Emergency federal rules during the Pandemic have caused her to lose her coverage yet. According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative analyst's office, 40,000 people will lose their coverage before California's new program starts on Jan. 1, 2024 if the rules that govern it are not renewed later this year.
He works for the California Immigrant Policy Center and lives in the central valley. Since moving to the U.S., her mother has never had health insurance.
A gap in her coverage would cause her to lose access to the medication she takes to treat depression. She needs to schedule as many appointments as she can this year before she loses her coverage.
"California is taking that step to set that example for other states, I don't have a work permit or other permission to live in the U.S." It is my belief that we can do better by making sure that people like myself and hundreds of others, thousands of others, don't fall out of their health care just because they are 26.
Six months to a year is how long it has taken for previous expansions of the Medicaid system. The expansion is so large that it needs a year and a half to be completed.
Low-income immigrants living in the country illegally don't have other options when it comes to health care. If you lose your Medicaid coverage, you can purchase coverage from Covered California, the state-run health insurance exchange.
This is it for this population. Sarah Dar is the director of health and public benefits policy for the California Immigrant Policy Center.
The Democrats in the Legislature are working with the administration to speed up the process.
We are doing everything we can. Maria Elena Durazo said that they were talking to the administration and the Department of Health to make sure that nobody lost it. It doesn't make sense to lose them and then bring them back in.