On June 28, 2021 California’s governor and state legislature announced a new advancement toward health equity in California: all income-eligible adults ages 50 and above are set to have access to Medi-Cal. By ending the exclusion for older adults based on immigration status, we are one step closer to ensuring every Californian stays healthy through access to preventative health care. This is the most expansive program for undocumented older adults in the nation.
Cynthia Buiza, executive director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, said: “This is a major victory for California families, ensuring that residents over age 50, regardless of their immigration status, are able to access the care they need to be healthy and live full lives. Building a healthy California means we cannot merely return to pre-pandemic conditions where systemic inequities limited access to life-saving resources and jeopardized community health. Now is our opportunity to envision and create a state where everyone has a chance to thrive. We at CIPC are proud to be among the advocates leading the way to a California that prioritizes the health and wellbeing of all Californians, regardless of birthplace or income.”
CIPC, a co-chair of the Health4All Coalition, has advocated for health care access for undocumented community members since 2014. The coalition’s advocacy has resulted in a number of wins. In 2016 California invested in providing full-scope Medi-Cal to all low-income children, regardless of immigration status. Since then, “Health4All Kids” has resulted in the successful enrollment of hundreds of thousands of undocumented children in life-saving health care. In 2020, the state implemented a further expansion of Medi-Cal to include low-income undocumented young adults ages 19-25.
But despite these changes, undocumented adults remain the largest uninsured population in California, and the pandemic only heightened the urgency to address this inequity. Today our state’s leadership has begun to shrink that number and ensure that our communities in California stay healthy. By removing the exclusion for adults over age 50, it’s estimated that approximately 235,000 older adults who were previously left out will now be able to access Medi-Cal.
Additional Background: Since 2014, California has reduced its number of uninsured residents from 7 million to 3 million people thanks to implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and additional state reforms. Despite this progress, the ACA explicitly and unjustly excludes undocumented immigrants from health coverage through federally funded programs, including Medi-Cal. The Health4All Coalition was formed by California Immigrant Policy Center and Health Access California to advocate for removing these exclusions based on immigration status.
The coalition’s years of advocacy have resulted in a number of wins. In 2016 California invested in providing full-scope Medi-Cal to all low-income children, regardless of their immigration status. Since then, “Health4All Kids” has resulted in the successful enrollment of hundreds of thousands of undocumented children in life-saving health care. In 2020, the state implemented a further expansion of Medi-Cal to include low-income undocumented young adults ages 19-25.
However, many undocumented adults—our parents and siblings, friends and neighbors, taxpayers and workers in our economy—remain locked out of comprehensive healthcare, making them the largest population in California with no health insurance. Any effort towards universal coverage, whether in California or nationally, must ensure that everyone, regardless of status, has access to care.
CIPC and the #Health4All Campaign continue to champion this cause. For more information on the Health4All Campaign.