State Budget Deal Expands Health Care to Undocumented Young Adults and Subsidies to Middle-Income Families

CALAAEM News Service at
Tue Jun 18 21:54:27 PDT 2019


June 18, 2019


State Budget Deal Expands Health Care to Undocumented Young Adults and
Subsidies to Middle-Income Families


California Health


By Claudia Boyd-Barrett . Jun 17, 2019


State lawmakers have approved a new budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year that
seeks to make health care accessible and affordable to more people,
including undocumented young adults.


The $215 billion budget increases subsidies for people who purchase health
insurance through the Covered California exchange, extends Medi-Cal
eligibility to cover low-income undocumented adults ages 19 to 25, enacts
the state's own version of the individual mandate, and reduces the
cost-sharing burden for some seniors enrolled in the Medi-Cal program.


California's budget bill, which is now awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom's
signature, essentially thumbs its nose at Republican efforts on the federal
level to undo the Affordable Care Act and reduce government funding for
health care. It also makes California the first in the nation to provide
health coverage to undocumented young adults, building on the state's
existing policy of providing Medi-Cal coverage to undocumented children
under age 19.


"This is a dramatically different direction than the federal government,
which has sought to repeal and roll back coverage gains," said Anthony
Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a statewide health
advocacy coalition. "This is about expanding Medicaid (the federal name for
Medi-Cal), improving affordability assistance, getting more people covered
with comprehensive benefits. I think California is showing the way forward."


Lawmakers set aside approximately $450 million over three years to help pay
for the increase in health exchange subsidies. This will be paired with
revenue raised from the new state-run individual mandate, a penalty on
people who don't purchase health insurance. The federal government struck
down the nationwide individual mandate in 2017.


Under California's newly expanded subsidy criteria, people who earn up to
six times the federal poverty level, or approximately $75,000 a year for an
individual, will be eligible for subsides. Under the Affordable Care Act,
only those making up to four times the federal poverty level qualified for
health insurance help. The change is expected to affect about 190,000


"This will provide new help so people can afford coverage in Covered
California," Wright said. "The proposal would really help not just people
around or below the poverty level, but also middle-income people who right
now make too much to qualify (under federal law) but who still struggle to
afford health care."


The budget also provides almost $100 million for health care coverage for
undocumented young adults through Medi-Cal. The coverage would take effect
in 2020 for those who qualify.


Carolina Gamero, senior communications specialist for the California
Immigrant Policy Center, praised the move as "historic." Currently,
undocumented children in the Medi-Cal program lose coverage when they turn


"For the short term, it prevents people from aging out-people can still get
their glasses, get the medication they need and make those doctor visits,"
she said. "It's just a little more of a buffer."


Nevertheless, she and other immigrant and health advocates said they were
disappointed the budget didn't go further to cover undocumented seniors.
Ultimately, Gamero said she hopes all undocumented people will be able to
get health care coverage, including seniors, farmworkers and parents. She
said many undocumented immigrants develop chronic conditions, because
they've been unable to access preventive care, or they become burdened by
medical debt.


"We really do believe that we can go further, and we should go further, to
cover everybody regardless of their status," Gamero said.





Brian Potts MD, MBA
Managing Editor, CAL/AAEM News Service


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