Budget Agreement Increases Services for Undocumented Immigrants, Including Health Coverage for Children
The 2015-16 budget package includes new policies and funding targeted toward many of the undocumented immigrants who live, work, and pay taxes in California. Specifically, the budget agreement:
- Expands eligibility for comprehensive Medi-Cal coverage to undocumented immigrant children and youth. Currently, undocumented immigrants generally are prohibited from signing up for comprehensive – or “full-scope” – health care coverage through Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program for low-income residents. Instead, undocumented immigrants may receive only emergency and pregnancy-related services (known as “restricted-scope” Medi-Cal). The budget package expands eligibility for Medi-Cal by allowing undocumented immigrants who are age 18 or younger to sign up for full-scope coverage so long as they are otherwise eligible for the program. (Those age 19 or older generally would continue to qualify only for restricted-scope benefits.) This change, which will take effect on May 1, 2016, is projected to benefit 170,000 children and youth in California. The General Fund cost of this expansion is projected to be $40 million in 2015-16, rising to approximately $132 million in 2016-17.
- Sets aside $26.6 million to fund increased state costs for Medi-Cal and certain other services if the courts uphold President Obama’s recent executive actions on immigration. The President’s new policies – which are on hold due to litigation – would allow several million undocumented immigrants throughout the nation to apply to temporarily remain in the US and work legally without fear of deportation. (This is known as “deferred action.”) Under California law, individuals who obtain this federal status may enroll in certain programs, such as Medi-Cal. Moreover, undocumented immigrant parents who qualify for deferred action may decide to sign up their eligible children for certain services that the family had previously avoided or had not been aware of. Based on these factors, the 2015-16 budget projects increased General Fund costs of $26.6 million for Medi-Cal and certain other services beginning in October 2015, assuming that the federal courts uphold the President’s executive actions on immigration.
- Includes $15 million to assist undocumented immigrants in applying for deferred action under the President’s new policies, help other immigrants apply for citizenship, and support education and outreach efforts targeted toward immigrants. The Department of Social Services will oversee this program, which will provide grants to nonprofit organizations with extensive experience in immigration law and policy.