California Opens Medicaid to Older Unauthorized Immigrants

Kaiser Health News: California Opens Medicaid to Older Unauthorized Immigrants (May 2, 2022)

On May 1, California opened Medi-Cal to older immigrants residing in the state without legal permission. Unauthorized immigrants over age 49 who fall below certain income thresholds are now eligible for full coverage by Medi-Cal, California’s version of Medicaid, the federal-state partnership that provides health insurance to low-income people.

Even as advocates and health officials spread the word about the new eligibility rules, they expect to encounter deep distrust from immigrants who vividly remember the Trump administration’s public charge rule, which stoked fear that applying for public benefits might harm their immigration status or even lead to deportation. With elections looming, many fear those days are not entirely in the past.

“What advocates are trying to do on the ground is explain what county offices do with their information. It’s not shared with immigration,” says Tiffany Huyenh-Cho, a senior attorney at Justice in Aging. “We’re really trying to allay some of those concerns people still have.

Unauthorized immigrants of all ages account for 40% of the state’s approximately 3.2 million uninsured residents. Official estimates put the number of newly eligible people as high as 235,000. Those who sign up will join more than 220,000 unauthorized immigrants ages 25 and under already enrolled in Medi-Cal.

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