Nearly a quarter of a million undocumented adults and seniors in California – many of whom are or have been essential workers – will gain access to low-cost or free medical services as early as next year under a groundbreaking budget deal approved Monday by the Legislature.
California is now positioned to officially become the first state in the nation to offer public health insurance to low-income, undocumented residents ages 50 and older, a highly vulnerable population which has been made even more vulnerable by the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to sign the agreement into law before July 1.
State Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, who as senator introduced the first (unsuccessful) bill in 2014 to end the exclusion of undocumented immigrants from full Medi-Cal benefits, applauded the news as “a dream come true.”
“California’s immigrants have given so much to our state and now they’ll have the dignity of accessing health care,” Lara said. “Today the state Legislature and the governor will be erasing a vestige of discrimination against our immigrant communities that so many of us have fought for years to overcome.”
The whopping $262.6 billion state budget deal includes spending on a range of programs with an eye toward social equity, including other projects like universal transitional kindergarten, enhanced after-school and summer learning programs and an effort to make the state’s top public universities more accessible to in-state students.