California to secure health benefits for young immigrants

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — About 40,000 low-income adults living in the country illegally will not lose their government-subsidized health insurance next year under a new policy announced Monday by California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration.

California already pays for health care costs for low-income adults 25 and younger, regardless of immigration status. The new law, which takes effect in January 2024, would expand those benefits to cover all adults, regardless of their immigration status, who would be eligible for the state’s Medicaid program.

But between now and that new law taking effect in 2024, about 40,000 young adults in California with Medicaid are expected to lose their benefits because they are over 25. On Monday, the state Department of Health Services announced it would continue. Cover those young adults through the end of 2023 so they don’t lose their benefits.

“Providing continuous coverage means thousands of young Californians won’t face barriers to care, as a result of keeping them covered and healthy,” said Jose Torres Casillas, policy and legislative advocate for Health Access California, a consumer health care advocate. group. “California is leading the way to make our health care system work better for all communities, regardless of income, age, or immigration status.”

Nationwide, about 22.1 million people were living in the country illegally in 2020, or about 7% of the population, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health care nonprofit. Although many have jobs and pay taxes, these people do not qualify for most federal public benefit programs.

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

California was the first state to pay for the health care costs of some adults living in the country illegally when, in 2019, state lawmakers voted to make people 25 and younger eligible for Medicaid regardless of their immigration status.

That policy went into effect in 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic began. The federal government declared a public health emergency, meaning no one could lose their Medicaid benefits. That’s why many young immigrants in California have been able to stay on Medicaid, even though they are now over 25 and technically no longer eligible.

The federal public health emergency is expected to end soon. When this happens, all those young adults who are now over 25 will lose their benefits once they come up for renewal. Instead, the Newsom administration said it would delay those renewals until the end of 2023, giving them time for the new law to take effect.

“These young adults — who currently have Medi-Cal — from losing coverage, only to be re-eligible later, will prevent unnecessary gaps in the health care and drugs that people need,” said Connie Choi, policy director for California Immigration. Policy Center.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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