700,000 More Illegal Immigrants in California Eligible for Medi-Cal Starting Jan. 1

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Beginning Jan. 1, 2024, approximately 707,000 individuals aged 26 to 49 in California will become eligible for Medi-Cal coverage, a significant portion of whom are illegal immigrants, according to the California Department of Health Care Services.

The expansion, with a cost of around $1.2 billion, is part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s $310.8 billion 2023–2024 budget.

The state previously expanded Medi-Cal coverage to illegal immigrant children in 2016 and to individuals under 26 in 2020, then extended it to those over 50 in 2022.

Starting next year, close to 1 million illegal immigrants in the state will have access to Medi-Cal, reported the University of California–Berkeley.

However, this does not guarantee health care for all illegal immigrants—around 520,000 earn too much to be qualified for Medi-Cal and do not have employer coverage, according to the university.

Nationwide, California will be the only state that offers free health care for those with low income regardless of citizenship status. This stands in contrast to federal programs such as Medicaid that exclude illegal immigrants from health care for low-income residents.

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Data shows that illegal immigrants make up approximately 9 percent of the state’s workforce, encompassing a disproportionate number of agriculture, construction, and manufacturing workers, according to the Pew Research Center.

Critics fear expanding free health care could encourage more illegal border crossings.

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, told the Associated Press after the 2022 announcement of the Medi-Cal expansion that the program would be “a magnet for those who are not legally authorized to enter the country.”

“I think many of us are very sympathetic to the immigrant community, but we really wish we had better control of who enters this nation and this state.”

As hundreds of thousands anticipate accessing Medi-Cal coverage next year, millions of Californians may face removal from the rolls after the state resumed verifying the eligibility of covered residents. This follows the expiration earlier this year of federal health care policies enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to state records, over 930,000 people have had their Medi-Cal terminated as of October—nearly 90 percent of such due to procedural reasons like missing paperwork, reported CalMatters.
An estimated 2 million to 3 million Californians could lose their coverage during the verification process, according to the California Health Care Foundation.

Currently, over 15 million Californians—or 40 percent of the state’s population—are enrolled in the program.

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