California to Protect Health Services for Young Immigrants

FILE - Supporters of proposals to expand California's government-funded <a class=health care services to undocumented immigrants gather at the Capitol for Immigrant Day of Action in Sacramento, California May 20, 2019. A new policy in California means about 40,000 low-income young adults residing illegally in the country won’t lose their state-funded insurance in the next year. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file)” title=”FILE – Supporters of proposals to expand California’s government-funded health care services to undocumented immigrants gather at the Capitol for Immigrant Day of Action in Sacramento, California May 20, 2019. A new policy in California means about 40,000 low-income young adults residing illegally in the country won’t lose their state-funded insurance in the next year. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file)” loading=”lazy”/>

FILE – Supporters of proposals to expand California’s government-funded health care services to undocumented immigrants gather at the Capitol for Immigrant Day of Action in Sacramento, California May 20, 2019. A new policy in California means about 40,000 low-income young adults residing illegally in the country won’t lose their state-funded insurance in the next year. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file)

AP

About 40,000 low-income adults illegally residing in the country will not lose their state-funded health insurance over the next year under a new policy announced Monday by California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration.

California already pays for the healthcare costs of low-income adults ages 25 and younger, regardless of their immigration status. A new law, scheduled to take effect in January 2024, would extend those benefits to all adults who would qualify for the state’s Medicaid program without their immigrant status.

But by the time this new law goes into effect in 2024, about 40,000 young adults who are already on Medicaid in California are expected to lose their benefits because they are older than 25. On Monday, the state Department of Health announced it will continue to cover these young adults through the end of 2023 to ensure they don’t lose their benefits.

“Providing continued coverage means tens of thousands of young Californians have no interruptions in care, keeping them insured and healthier,” said Jose Torres Casillas, political and legislative attorney for Health Access California, a consumer health advocacy group. “California is once again leading the way in making our healthcare system work better for all communities regardless of income, age, or immigration status.”

Nationwide, about 22.1 million people were residing in the country illegally in 2020, or about 7% of the population, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health care nonprofit. These people are not eligible for most government welfare programs, although many have jobs and pay taxes.

Some states, including California, have used their own money to help pay for this group’s healthcare costs. Eighteen states provide prenatal care to people regardless of immigration status, while five states and the District of Columbia cover all children of low-income families regardless of immigration status. California and Illinois recently admitted older adult immigrants to their Medicaid programs.

California became the first state to pay for the healthcare costs of some illegally resident adults when the state legislature voted in 2019 to allow people under the age of 25 to be eligible for Medicaid regardless of their immigration status.

This policy came into effect in 2020, right at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal government has declared a public health emergency, which means no one can lose their Medicaid benefits. Because of this, many young immigrants to California have been able to remain on Medicaid even though they are now over 25 and technically ineligible.

The federal health emergency is expected to end soon. If this is the case, all young adults now over 25 would lose their benefits once they are up for renewal. Instead, the Newsom administration announced it would delay those extensions until the end of 2023 to give them time for the new law to take effect.

“Protecting these young adults – who currently have Medi-Cal – from losing insurance coverage only to be eligible again shortly thereafter will prevent unnecessary gaps in the health care and medications people need,” said Connie Choi, Policy Director at the California Immigrant Policy Center.

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