California to protect immigrant youth health benefits

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

California already pays health care expenses for low-income adults 25 and under, regardless of immigration status. A new law slated to take effect in January 2024 would extend those benefits to all adults who, without their immigration status, would be eligible for the state’s Medicaid program.

But by the time this new law takes effect in 2024, about 40,000 young adults who already receive Medicaid in California are expected to lose their benefits because they are over 25. On Monday, the state’s Department of Health Services announced it would continue to cover these young adults through the end of 2023 to ensure they don’t lose their benefits.

“Providing continued coverage means tens of thousands of young Californians won’t face interruptions in care, keeping them covered and healthier,” said Jose Torres Casillas, policy and legislative advocate for Health Access California, a consumer health care advocacy organization. band. “California is again leading the way in making our healthcare system work better for all communities, regardless of income, age or immigration status.”

Nationally, 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 nonprofit health care organization. These people are ineligible for most federal public benefit programs, although many are employed and pay taxes.

Some states, including California, have used their own money to cover health expenses for this group. Eighteen states provide prenatal care to people regardless of immigration status, while five states and the District of Columbia cover all children from low-income families, regardless of 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 expenses of some adults living illegally in the country when, in 2019, state lawmakers voted to make people 25 and under eligible for Medicaid, regardless of their immigration status.

This policy came into effect in 2020, just at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal government has issued a public health emergency, which means no one could lose their Medicaid benefits. This is 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. In this case, all those young adults who are now over 25 would lose their benefits once they are renewed. Instead, the Newsom administration has said it will delay those renewals until the end of 2023, giving them time for the new law to take effect.

“Protecting these young adults – who currently have Medi-Cal – from losing their coverage, only to become eligible again soon after, will prevent unnecessary gaps in health services and the medications people need,” said Connie Choi, Director of Policy at California Immigrant. Policy Center.

About Evelyn C. Heim

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