California expands coverage to undocumented immigrants

Last month, we reviewed Governor Newsom’s budget plan with specific attention to health care spending. Gaining national attention, with particular relevance for the 2020 Presidential primaries, CA has expanded Medi-Cal coverage to undocumented residents aged 19-25.

In comparison, Presidential candidates for the 2020 presidential election have a variety of opinions on the matter. Senator Bernie Sanders said,

“I happen to believe that when I talk about healthcare as a human right that applies to all people in this country, and under a Medicare for All single payer system, we could afford to do that.”


Get the latest state-specific policy intelligence for the health care sector delivered to your inbox.


Senator Warren also supports expanding coverage to undocumented immigrants in CA. But most other Democratic candidates do not.

State officials estimate that the health care program would provide coverage for about 138,000 residents at a cost of $98 million in the first year. Seventy-five percent are already covered by the Medi-Cal system, and are receiving some benefits or services under SB 75, even if they are limited in scope.

Efforts by some Democrats to include undocumented seniors in the plan were rejected by Gov. Gavin Newsom and other legislators.

Cynthia Buiza, Executive Director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, said expanding coverage is a

“wise investment in legal representation for immigrants facing deportation in a cruel and callous system.” However, in regards to expanding coverage to all, “the exclusion of undocumented elders from the same health care their U.S. citizen neighbors are eligible for means beloved community members will suffer and die from treatable conditions.”

Seven states, including California, District of Columbia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and Washington cover income-eligible children when their immigration status makes them otherwise ineligible.

To help pay for the plan, the budget includes an individual mandate. The requirement that people buy health insurance or pay a fine was removed from the national health bill passed at the end of 2017.