California will offer free health care to all undocumented immigrants who qualify for the state’s government-run health insurance program, Medi-Cal, beginning January 1. This will make California the first state in the United States to do so. In terms of state healthcare policy, this expansion of Medi-Cal health insurance for low-income residents is a watershed moment.
In 2015, the initiative to expand Medi-Cal coverage was launched, granting eligibility to undocumented children. Later, under Governor Gavin Newsom, it was expanded to include undocumented adults aged 19 to 25 and over the age of 50. With effect from the new year, the most recent expansion will now include undocumented immigrants aged 26 to 49, bringing the total number of participants to approximately 700,000.
The action was lauded by State Senator María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) as a “historic investment” and an indication of dedication to the cause of health care as a fundamental human right. Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) concurred with this assessment, highlighting the critical role that health care plays in enhancing the overall standard of living.
Certain health care experts and policy analysts, nevertheless, are concerned about the expansion. The decision was criticized by Sally Pipes, president of the Pacific Research Institute and an authority on health care policy, particularly in light of California’s anticipated $68 billion budget deficit. She highlighted the obstacles that numerous Medi-Cal recipients are already confronted with in locating physicians, which are caused by low reimbursement rates and lengthy wait times.
Simon Hankinson, an expert on immigration and border security affiliated with the Heritage Foundation, engaged in speculation on social media regarding the program’s future eligibility for a federal aid. Concerns were also voiced by the California Senate Republican Caucus, which noted that Medi-Cal, which serves more than one-third of the state’s population, is already overburdened and that adding more individuals could exacerbate access issues.
Annual costs for the most recent Medi-Cal expansion are estimated to be around $2.6 billion. As California advances this policy, it establishes a model for other states contemplating comparable actions to tackle the issue of undocumented residents’ access to health care.