What new rules regarding health benefits for immigrants in California?
The state has extended Medi-Cal to undocumented children and young people, mainly using public funds, and budget negotiations are underway to expand coverage to undocumented older people.
Various health care programs provide coverage to undocumented immigrants in California. These include Medi-Cal and Healthy Families, which are state-funded programs providing low-cost health coverage for children, and Medicare, a federal program for seniors.
Assembly Bill 901, introduced in February 2018 by Assemblymember Matthew Harper (D-North Hollywood), would establish a state universal health care program for all residents of California. The legislation would provide full coverage for all Californians, including undocumented immigrants who are the children or parents of California residents.
What all will the new law cover for the immigrants?
A California law will provide health coverage and care for undocumented immigrants in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
While insurance coverage for all undocumented immigrants has been on the legislative agenda for several years, COVID-19 has exposed immigrant health insurance gaps, fear and avoidance of health systems, and lack of access to vaccines could have repercussions for entire communities.
We also consider aspects of the interaction of children from blended families, in which at least one member is undocumented, with the health care system.
The health care network that serves undocumented immigrants is heterogeneous geographically, across age groups and, in some cases, across health needs. Undocumented settlers and their families no longer use first aid services as other immigrants; the lack of communication with the health system is a significant concern.
Children in households with at least one undocumented member are almost 11% less likely to have a regular source of care than children from other immigrant families, although they receive similar levels of care. Doubts remain about improving access to health insurance and health care for undocumented migrants and their families.
Current legislation proposes a further expansion to cover all low-income adults, regardless of immigration status. Expanding available insurance options, such as raising the Medi-Cal program for seniors and the ability to purchase health insurance in Covered California, may begin to fill the gaps for this group. In addition to expanding coverage, encouraging all counties to serve irregular migrants through their programs in need of health care and strengthening support for social protection providers could improve equity in access to health care.
Ultimately, contact with immigrant communities through community organizations and other trusted messengers would begin to ease the fears many undocumented immigrants and their families have about government programs. These efforts will be in line with the changing feelings of the state’s people. Public support for inclusive health insurance is growing in California, with 66% of adults supporting undocumented immigrant health insurance in 2021, up 54% in 2015.