An additional 764,000 people will receive coverage as a result of California being the first state to guarantee free health care for all low-income immigrants living in the country illegally; the measure will ultimately cost around $2.7 billion annually.
Governor Gavin Newsom was anticipated to approve a $307.9 billion operating budget on Thursday. By 2024, it promises to make low-income persons, regardless of immigration status, eligible for the state’s Medicaid programme. For health care and immigration advocates who have been calling for the reform for more than ten years, it is a long-awaited success.
Through Medicaid, the federal and state governments collaborate nationally to provide low-income adults and children with free medical care. However, the federal government would not support anyone who are residing unlawfully in the nation. Some governments, including California, have paid a portion of some low-income immigrants’ medical costs out of their own tax revenue.
California now wants to lead the way in implementing that for everyone.
Currently, 92 percent of Californians have access to health insurance, ranking the Golden State in the centre of the nation. But that will alter if this budget is completely implemented, as adults who are present unlawfully in the country represent one of the state’s largest groups of uninsured citizens.
Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a statewide organisation that advocates for patient rights in the health care system, noted that this would be the largest expansion of coverage in the US since the Affordable Care Act’s implementation in 2014. In California, we understand that when everyone is covered, everyone wins.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health care group, the number of persons residing in the country unlawfully in 2020 was roughly 22.1 million, or about 7% of the entire population. Despite the fact that many of them have employment and pay taxes, they are not eligible for the majority of public benefit programmes.
Some health care programmes are slowly becoming more accessible to immigrants. In addition to the District of Columbia and five states (California, Illinois, New York, Oregon, and Washington), which now cover all children from low-income families regardless of their legal status, 18 states now offer prenatal care to persons regardless of their immigration status. Medicaid has been extended to cover older immigrant adults in California and Illinois.
Republicans and conservative organisations in California have opposed providing health insurance to illegal immigrants. Offering free healthcare, according to Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association president Jon Coupal, will make California “a magnet for those who are not lawfully able to enter the nation,” he added.
Although many of us, in my opinion, have a great deal of compassion for the immigrant community, Coupal added, “we really wish we had more control over who comes into this country and this state.
Medicaid expansion in California won’t be simple. About 40,000 low-income immigrants will likely lose their health coverage for up to a year in 2023 before being eligible to get it back due to a confluence of circumstances, including the state’s slow rollout of the expansion and the termination of some federal pandemic policies. This illustrates the challenge of navigating the government-run health insurance system, which is supposed to make it simpler for people to get coverage.
When she arrived in the country in 2007, Beatriz Hernandez was 11 years old. When she was a child, California taxpayers paid for her medical bills. Due to her immigration status, she lost that coverage when she turned 19, but it was reinstated in 2020 when the state started providing coverage for low-income immigrants who are 26 years old and younger.
Hernandez recently turned 26. As a result of emergency federal regulations during the pandemic, she hasn’t yet lost her coverage. A study by the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that 40,000 individuals will temporarily lose their coverage before California’s new programme begins on Jan. 1, 2024, but those regulations may expire later this year, making her one of them.
Hernandez is an organiser for the California Immigrant Policy Center and resides in Merced, in the Central Valley of California. Since she has never had health insurance since immigrating to the United States, she said that her mother would gain the most from the expansion.
Hernandez, though, is concerned that a coverage gap might prevent her from accessing the antidepressant medicine she currently uses to address her depression. She is currently making as many appointments as she can before her insurance coverage expires, including those for the dentist, optometrist, and dermatologist.
It’s wonderful that California is taking this action to set an example for other states, said Hernandez, who claimed she lacked a work visa or any other type of authorization to reside in the country. “I do think we can do better,” the speaker said, “by making sure that folks like myself and hundreds, thousands of others don’t lose their health insurance just because they turn 26.”
It has previously taken six months to a year to implement Medicaid system expansions in California. However, the Newsom administration claims that because this expansion is so much bigger than the previous ones, it would take an additional year and a half to complete.
Health care activists claim that because low-income immigrants living in the country illegally have no other options, the coverage gap is important for them. People who lose their Medicaid coverage can purchase insurance through the state-run health insurance exchange, Covered California, and probably qualify for a sizable discount.
But that’s all there is for this population. According to Sarah Dar, the California Immigrant Policy Center’s director of health and public benefits policy, “Medicaid is the only public programme available to them.
Democrats claim to be collaborating with the Newsom administration to expedite the procedure in the state Legislature.
“We’re making every effort. Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, a Democrat, stated, “We’re talking to the administration and the leadership in the (California) Department of Health to make sure that we do it as quickly as possible and that nobody loses it in the interim. “To lose them and then draw them back in doesn’t make sense.”