California Is Expanding Medicaid To Undocumented Residents Age 50+

MM Curator summary


California will use state only funds to pay for healthcare for 235,000 non-citizens starting in 2022.


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California is expanding Medicaid eligibility to undocumented residents over age 50, Governor Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday afternoon, with the signing of a bill that he says is the first to offer the program for that age group.


Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a news conference in Oakland, Calif., Monday, July 26, 2021. (AP … [+] Photo/Jeff Chiu)


Key Facts

The law will expand Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program, to about 235,000 low-income undocumented Californians 50 and older, the governor’s office said in a press release.

When the law takes effect in 2022, all low-income Californians without legal status, except those aged 26-49, will be eligible for Medi-Cal, according to the Sacramento Bee.

The state expanded Medi-Cal to children in 2016 and adults up to age 26 in 2020.

Crucial Quote

The Medicaid expansion will “ensure thousands of older undocumented Californians, many of whom have been serving on the front lines of the pandemic, can access critical health care services,” Newsom said in a statement.

Key Background

Under federal law, people who immigrate to the U.S. are eligible for Medicaid—a program for low-income people funded by state and federal dollarsonly if they have legal status and have been in the country for five years. To get around the federal restrictions, eight states and Washington, D.C. have extended Medicaid to undocumented children using state dollars. Children and young adults were the only groups that had been made eligible until 2020, when Illinois expanded Medicaid to undocumented residents over 65.

Big Number

46. That’s the percentage of undocumented immigrants under age 65 who were uninsured in 2019, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. That’s compared to 11.1% of overall U.S. residents who went without insurance in the first half of 2020, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. 

What To Watch For

“There is a lot of momentum at the state level” to expand Medicaid coverage to undocumented children, with several states considering it in the last year, said Kelly Whitener, associate professor at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute. In Connecticut, legislators have discussed expanding the program to undocumented people at all ages. “It’s a newer trend to chip away at the age range from both sides,” she said.

(Georgetown University Health Policy Institute)

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