California Lawmakers: State Should Expand Health Coverage to Undocumented Immigrants

As reported by The Sacramento Bee, several top California legislators are pushing the state to expand health coverage to undocumented immigrants. They are actively seeking support from Governor Gavin Newsom. If passed into law, Assembly Bill 4 (AB 4) would give all low-income adults in California the right to enroll in Medi-Cal—regardless of their immigration status. In this post, our Los Angeles immigration attorney explains the problems and provides a brief overview of the solution being proposed by some California state lawmakers.

The Problem: Many Undocumented Lack Access to Health Care

COVID-19 is an unprecedented public health and economic crisis. Notably, the spread of the disease is still accelerating. More cases were confirmed in California in November than in any other month of the outbreak. While virtually everyone’s life has been disrupted by the virus, some communities face a disproportionate impact from the fallout. Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light many of the challenges facing low-income, undocumented immigrants in California and throughout the country more broadly. Lack of access to reliable medical care is a huge problem.

Sadly, undocumented immigrants have long been denied access to many state and federal benefits. During this already difficult time, the Trump Administration’s so-called ‘public charge rule’ has made many things even more challenging for many immigrant households. California has taken some state-level steps in an effort to address these problems. For example, earlier this year, officials created a $75 million COVID-19 relief fund for undocumented residents. Still, it is clear that more action is needed.

Proposed Solution: Expand Medi-Cal Coverage Regardless of Immigration Status

Medi-Cal is California’s state-run Medicaid program. Through the government program, many low income individuals can access health insurance coverage. However, undocumented immigrants are largely left out. As California state law currently exists, an adult’s eligibility for Medi-Cal coverage is based, in part, on their immigration status. In addition, in 2016, California officials reformed state law to ensure that all qualifying children receive coverage through Medi-Cal. Their immigration status is not a factor.

Some of the state’s leading lawmakers, including Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) and David Chiu (D-San Francisco), are pushing immediate reforms. They are sponsoring Assembly Bill 4, a proposal to remove immigration status as an eligibility factor for Medi-Cal coverage. It is important to emphasize the scope of the law. A state analysis found that more than 900,000 undocumented adults would qualify for Medi-Cal coverage, but are currently left out of the program simply because of their immigration status. The bill could go a long way to reducing the economic and public health disparities facing immigrant communities.

Get Help From an Immigration Attorney in Southern California

At Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, our Los Angeles immigration lawyer is a passionate and reliable advocate for clients and their families. We believe that all clients deserve personalized representation. Our law firm handles the full range of federal immigration matters. Call us now for a confidential review of your immigration case. We are more than happy to help you find the best path forward.

Josh Goldstein
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