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More Californians now eligible for Medi-Cal benefits regardless of immigration status

This is a huge victory for our immigrant community,” said Mar Velez, a state policy senior manager for the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California.

CALIFORNIA, USA — Health care is becoming more accessible to those who need it most.

A California law went into effect on May 1, giving full scope Medi-Cal to adults ages 50 or older, regardless of their immigration status. Mar Velez, a state policy senior manager for the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California (LCHC), described the moment as a “huge victory for our immigrant community,” especially as need has been critical during the pandemic.

“It really was a clear example of how important it is for all of us to have access to healthcare coverage,” Velez said.

However, she said the need among undocumented immigrants was always present, including for some Latino families who are part of mixed status, multi-generational households. In many of these cases, Velez said people who have permanent residency or who are U.S. citizens could still be living with family members who are undocumented, which could lead to challenges.

“When you have that kind of dynamic within a household where some can have access to health care and others can’t, that lack of access to even one person can negatively impact a whole household,” Velez said.

Before this expansion went into effect, those who were uninsured could only hope to benefit from emergency Medi-Cal. That was the case for Ana Tutila, a community health worker for LCHC, who is now eligible for benefits under the new law.

“It was like a traffic light turned on. We had been waiting for years and sometimes it seemed close and sometimes far away. All of a sudden it happened and wow, it’s like you’re able to cross the street from one end to another,” Tutila said.

She said before this law, many immigrants relied on clinics or community health centers, but even those could get expensive.

“With more time, they have become more costly,” Tutila said. “They do a financial study and (if) you’re no longer eligible, they ask you for hundreds of dollars just for the medicine and consultation.”

Now, Tutila is ready to get her annual check-ups and take care of her health. She said dental health will be a top priority.

“Many times when you have a cavity, you turn to alternative care because services like a cleaning or a filling can be over $100,” Tutila said. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom also previously said that California is on the path to expand Medi-Cal to all eligible Californians regardless of age and immigration status, leading to the “most comprehensive health coverage in the entire country."

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