California Will Preserve Young Immigrant Health Benefits

The administration of California Governor Gavin Newsom stated on Monday that it will not let roughly 40,000 low-income adults living in the country illegally to lose their government-funded health insurance over the next year.

Low-income adults under the age of 25 in California already have their medical bills covered, regardless of their immigration status, by the state. In January 2024, a new law will go into effect that would make these benefits available to all adult residents of the state who, if not for their immigration status, would be eligible for the state’s Medicaid program.

However, roughly 40,000 young adults who currently have Medicaid in California are likely to lose benefits because they are older than 25 by the time that new law takes effect in 2024. On Monday, the state’s Department of Health Care Services made clear that those young adults will not lose their coverage until the end of 2023.

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According to Jose Torres Casillas, policy and legislative advocate for Health Access California, a consumer health care advocacy group, “providing continuous coverage means that tens of thousands of young Californians will not face a disruptions in care, keeping them covered and healthier as a result.” Again, California is in the forefront of efforts to improve health care access for all Americans, regardless of where they live, how much money they make, or whether or not they are citizens.
The Kaiser Family Foundation is a non-profit health care organization that estimates that in 2020 there will be 22.1 million illegal immigrants in the United States. This is around 7% of the total population. Despite the fact that many of them are employed and contribute to the tax system, they are ineligible for federal public benefit programs.

Some states, notably California, have used general revenue to pay for this population’s medical treatment. Nineteen states cover prenatal care for all expectant mothers, regardless of immigration status, and five states and the District of Columbia cover all children from low-income households. Both the state of California and the state of Illinois have recently expanded Medicaid coverage to include foreign-born individuals who are 55 and older.

In 2019, California lawmakers agreed to make anyone under the age of 25 eligible for Medicaid regardless of their immigration status, making it the first state to pay for the health care expenses of some adults living in the country illegally.

In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, that regulation went into effect. Because of the federally declared public health emergency, no one’s Medicaid coverage will be cut. This is why many young immigrant Californians who are now above the age of 25 have been allowed to continue receiving Medicaid coverage.

Soon, the federal public health emergency should be over. When that time comes, all of those young adults who are now older than 25 will automatically lose their benefits at the time of renewal. The Newsom administration has instead announced that it will not renew these contracts until the end of 2023, allowing the new law that much more time to take effect.

According to Connie Choi, policy director at the California Immigrant Policy Center, “protecting these young adults-who currently have Medi-Cal coverage-from losing coverage, only to become eligible again shortly thereafter will prevent needless gaps in health care services and medication that people need.”