FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – On Jan. 1, young undocumented adults between the ages of 19 and 25 became eligible for full-scope Medi-Cal in California, allowing them to have access to not just emergency care, but preventive and primary care as well.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed California Senate Bill 104 in July of 2019, making California the first state in the U.S. to give adult undocumented immigrants access to health care.
David Bacci is the regional vice president of the Northern and Central California Hospital Council and works with hospitals in the central valley and central coast regions.
He said this expansion means fewer people will have to seek emergency care services.
“The benefit to this is you have a whole group of people that can seek primary care and preventative care so that they can get care before it becomes an emergency and then you never have to access the emergency department in the first place,” Bacci said.
In Fresno County, as of November, 1,613 undocumented residents between the ages of 19 and 25 were receiving restricted Medi-Cal, said Jordan Scott, Fresno County public information officer.
Scott said those residents have been notified of their extended coverage.
“Now they are going to be converting over to the full-scope benefits for Medi-Cal,” Scott said. “Part of our role in this transition has been working with the state to communicate with those residents receiving benefits, delivering notifications, working with them through the process and helping them prepare and know what to expect.”
More than 300 people turning 19 years old this year would have lost their benefits had the law not passed, Scott said.
“It’s a pretty significant number, no matter how you cut it,” Scott said.
Bacci said although this is decided at the government level, all hospitals are paying attention to the legislation that will go along with the health coverage.
“The biggest thought is there’s 300 people that actually get to continue having health care, and that’s huge because each one of those people, they’re part of a family,” Bacci said. “A lot of them in that age group between 18 and 25 are young parents, they’re caring for families.”
Scott said the information they have only captures those who have previously applied for the restricted Medi-Cal and are in the system, so there’s no way of knowing how many additional people who have not applied could benefit from the new law.
The expansion provides full-scope coverage to around 90,000 undocumented young immigrants this year. The state’s budget provides $98 million for the expansion in its first year — that’s less than 1% of the state’s total $215 billion budget.
When Newsom passed the law in July of 2019, President Donald Trump criticized his move.
“If you look at what they’re doing in California, how they’re treating people, they don’t treat their people as well as they treat illegal immigrants,” Trump told White House reporters in July of 2019.
In a tweet in June of 2019, Trump said, “All Democrats just raised their hands for giving millions of illegal aliens unlimited healthcare. How about taking care of American Citizens first!? That’s the end of that race!”
In addition to emergency health care, full-scope Medi-Cal provides medical, dental, family planning, vision and mental health care.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the second leading cause of death among the 15 to 24 age group is suicide.
Beneficiaries will also now have a primary doctor and can get referrals, according to the Department of Health Care Services.
Before 2020, full-scope Medi-Cal for undocumented immigrants in California was restricted to those who were under 19 years old.
Medi-Cal provides health insurance for people who are low-income in the state.
According to a report by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, an estimated 2.2 million residents in California are undocumented, and 61 percent of them are low-income.
“Anytime that you’re expanding coverage, you’re giving people the tools to care for their health so that we’re all healthier as we’re moving through society,” Bacci said.