Starting on May 1, Medi-Cal, California’s health coverage program for low-income individuals and families, is extending eligibility for full coverage to more than 185,000 individuals who are 50 years of age or older, regardless of immigration status.
“We’re delivering concrete results for Californians, continuing to fulfill the promise of a Healthy California for All, and I encourage all those eligible to take advantage of these essential health services,” said Governor Newsom. “This is an investment in our people, our economy, and our future. But we’re not stopping there. California is on the path to expanding Medi-Cal to all eligible Californians regardless of age or immigration status, providing the most comprehensive health coverage in the entire country.”
Governor Newsom last year signed legislation making California the first state in the nation to expand full-scope Medi-Cal eligibility to low-income adults 50 years of age or older, regardless of immigration status. Subject to legislative approval, Governor Newsom has this year proposed expanding Medi-Cal to all eligible residents, regardless of age or immigration status.
The expansion population includes individuals 50 years of age or older who are eligible for Medi-Cal, who do not have satisfactory immigration status, or are unable to establish satisfactory immigration status for full-scope Medi-Cal and are not yet enrolled in Medi-Cal. It also includes individuals 50 years of age or older who are currently enrolled in restricted scope Medi-Cal.
“This expansion of Medi-Cal supports the Newsom Administration’s vision of a Healthy California for All by addressing health coverage disparities that disproportionately impact disadvantaged communities. We’re committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion on behalf of all Californians,” said Michelle Baass, Director of the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS). “This action reflects our fundamental conviction that all Californians deserve quality health care.”
Many of these individuals and their communities have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and have had limited access to care. This expansion will improve access to preventive and routine care, improve financial security for those who enroll, and strengthen California’s efforts to address health disparities and inequities, especially among populations of color.
The state has worked for the last several years to extend health coverage to more Californians. In May 2016, children under 19 years of age became eligible for full-scope Medi-Cal benefits, and in January 2020, full-scope Medi-Cal was extended to young adults ages 19 through 25, regardless of immigration status. Previously, these individuals only qualified for limited Medi-Cal services, such as emergency, prenatal, and long-term care. Now they can access the full range of benefits available to Medi-Cal beneficiaries, including no-cost/low-cost quality health, behavioral health, substance use disorder services, and dental services through the various delivery systems under the Medi-Cal program.
“These Californians now have a place where they can coordinate all of their medical, dental, mental, and substance use disorder needs and a primary care physician to better manage their health conditions,” said Jacey Cooper, State Medicaid Director. “Everyone benefits from ensuring access for all Californians, and many of us know someone who depends on Medi-Cal for vital health coverage.”
The next step in California’s coverage expansion, subject to legislative approval, is outlined in the Governor’s 2022-23 budget, which proposes to expand Medi-Cal coverage to an estimated 700,000-plus adult’s ages 26 through 49 without satisfactory immigration status, effective no sooner than January 1, 2024. Extending Medi-Cal to hundreds of thousands more is an important step to help close health equity gaps in the state and get us closer to universal coverage.
The expansion to individuals aged 50 and over was included in Assembly Bill 133 (Chapter 143, Statutes of 2021), which amended Welfare and Institutions Code section 14007.8. For nearly a year, DHCS held monthly advocate and county workgroup meetings to implement this expansion.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services do not consider health, food, and housing services as part of the public charge determination. Therefore, using Medi-Cal benefits (except for nursing home or mental health institution care) will not hurt an individual’s immigration status. When someone applies for state-funded benefits, their information is only used to determine if they qualify. State laws protect the privacy of their information.