California to Protect Immigrant Youth’s Health Benefits

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

California already pays health care costs for low-income adults 25 and under, regardless of their immigration status. A new law slated to take effect in January 2024 would expand those benefits to cover all adults who, except for their immigration status, would qualify for the state’s Medicaid program.

But between now and when this new law goes into effect in 2024, about 40,000 young adults already on Medicaid in California are expected to lose their benefits because they are over 25. On Monday, the state 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 continuous coverage means tens of thousands of young Californians won’t face interruptions in care, keeping them covered and healthier as a result,” said Jose Torres Casillas, policy and legislative advocate for Health Access California , a consumer health advocate. group “California is once again leading the way in making 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 percent of the population, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit health care organization. These people are not eligible 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 care costs 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 in low-income families regardless of immigration status. California and Illinois recently made older immigrant adults eligible for their Medicaid programs.

California became the first state to pay health care costs for 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.

This policy went into effect in 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic began. The federal government issued 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’re now over 25 and technically no longer eligible.

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

“Protecting these young adults, who are currently on Medi-Cal, from losing coverage, only to become eligible again soon after, will prevent unnecessary gaps in the health services and medication people need,” said Connie Choi, director of California Immigrant policies. Policy Center.

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