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California First To Cover Health Care For All Undocumented Immigrants

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California on Thursday became the primary state to ensure free health take care of all low-income immigrants living within the country illegally, a move that may provide coverage for an extra 764,000 people at an eventual cost of about $2.7 billion a yr.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a $307.9 billion operating budget that pledges to make all low-income adults eligible for the state’s Medicaid program by 2024 no matter their immigration status. It’s a long-sought victory for health care and immigration activists, who’ve been asking for the change for greater than a decade.

Nationwide, federal and state governments join together to offer free health care to low-income adults and kids through Medicaid. However the federal government won’t pay for people who find themselves living within the country illegally. Some states, including California, have used their very own tax dollars to cover a portion of health care expenses for some low-income immigrants.

Now, California desires to be the primary to do this for everybody.

About 92% of Californians currently have some type of medical health insurance, putting the state in the course of the pack nationally. But that may change once this budget is fully implemented, as adults living within the country illegally make up considered one of the biggest groups of individuals without insurance within the state.

NEW: Just signed our budget. California will now be the primary state within the nation to attain universal access to healthcare coverage.

That is what being “pro-life” ACTUALLY looks like.

— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) July 1, 2022

“This may represent the most important expansion of coverage within the nation for the reason that start of the Inexpensive Care Act in 2014,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a statewide consumer health care advocacy group. “In California we recognize (that) everybody advantages when everyone seems to be covered.”

People living within the country illegally made up about 7% of the population nationwide in 2020, or about 22.1 million people, based on the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health care nonprofit. They aren’t eligible for many public profit programs, despite the fact that many have jobs and pay taxes.

Immigrants have slowly been having access to some health care programs. Eighteen states now provide prenatal care to people no matter their immigration status, while the District of Columbia and five states — California, Illinois, Latest York, Oregon and Washington — cover all children from low-income families no matter their immigration status. California and Illinois have expanded Medicaid to cover older adult immigrants.

In California, Republicans and conservative groups have opposed expanding health care to immigrants living within the country illegally. Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said offering free health care will make California “a magnet for individuals who aren’t legally authorized to enter the country.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a <a href=$307.9 billion operating budget that pledges to make all low-income adults eligible for the state’s Medicaid program by 2024 no matter their immigration status.” width=”720″ height=”479″ src=”https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/62be8f9c210000c3585eedf4.jpeg?cache=oKCXmLdx50&ops=scalefit_720_noupscale”/>Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a $307.9 billion operating budget that pledges to make all low-income adults eligible for the state’s Medicaid program by 2024 no matter their immigration status.

“I feel a lot of us are very sympathetic to the immigrant community, but we actually wish we had higher control of who enters this nation and this state,” Coupal said.

California’s expansion of Medicaid won’t be easy. A confluence of events, including the state’s slow rollout of the expansion and the tip of some federal pandemic policies, mean about 40,000 low-income immigrants will likely lose their health coverage for as much as a yr in 2023 before being eligible to get it back — illustrating the issue of navigating the government-run medical health insurance system that’s alleged to make it easier for people to get coverage.

Beatriz Hernandez got here to america in 2007 as a 11-year-old. She got health care through Medicaid when she was a baby. She lost that coverage once she turned 19 due to her immigration status, but it surely was restored in 2020 when the state began covering low-income immigrants 26 and younger.

Hernandez turned 26 in February. She hasn’t lost her coverage yet due to emergency federal rules through the pandemic. But those rules could expire later this yr, making her considered one of the estimated 40,000 individuals who will temporarily lose their coverage before California’s latest program starts on Jan. 1, 2024, based on an evaluation by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Hernandez lives in Merced in California’s Central Valley and works as an organizer with the California Immigrant Policy Center. She said her mother would profit essentially the most from the expansion, having never had medical health insurance since moving to the U.S.

But for Hernandez, she’s apprehensive a niche in her coverage would cause her to lose access to the medication she takes to treat depression. Within the meantime, she’s scheduling as many appointments as she will be able to this yr — including for the dentist, optometrist and dermatologist — before she loses coverage.

“It’s great that California is taking that step to set that example for other states,” said Hernandez, who said she doesn’t have a piece permit or other permission to live in america. “I do imagine that we will do higher by ensuring that folks like myself and tons of of others, 1000’s of others, don’t fall out of their health care just because they turn 26.”

Previous expansions of California’s Medicaid system have taken six months to a yr to implement. However the Newsom administration says it needs a yr and a half to finish this expansion since it is a lot larger than the previous ones.

Health care advocates say the gap in coverage is critical for low-income immigrants living within the country illegally because they don’t produce other options. Residents who lose their Medicaid coverage should purchase coverage from Covered California, the state-run medical health insurance exchange, and sure qualify for a major discount.

“But for this population, that’s it. (Medicaid) is the one public program available to them,” said Sarah Dar, director of health and public advantages policy for the California Immigrant Policy Center.

Democrats within the state Legislature say they’re working with the Newsom administration on speeding up the method.

“We’re doing all that we will. We’re talking to the administration, talking to the leadership within the (California) Department of Health, to ensure that that we do it as fast as possible and that no person loses it in the intervening time,” said Democratic Sen. Maria Elena Durazo. “It doesn’t make sense to lose them after which pull them back in.”

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