California poised to make sure all immigrants have medical health insurance – Orange County Register

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Addressing a packed room of fellow immigrants, Isabel Coronel recalled how as a retired farm employee, she never used to hunt medical help because she didn’t have medical health insurance.

Right after her talk, Coronel headed to a health care provider’s appointment.

Due to a law that took effect May 1, residents like Coronel — who’re older than 50 and living within the country without legal immigration status — can now qualify for full Medi-Cal services. It’s a part of a Medi-Cal expansion that began in 2016 for immigrant children, and by 2024, it can cover all low-income adults and kids within the state, no matter immigration status.

On Jan. 1, 2024, California will develop into the primary state within the nation to supply state-subsidized medical health insurance to all low-income immigrants residing within the country no matter their status.

This summer, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a budget deal that may expand the medical health insurance program to the last group of undocumented adults not currently covered: those between the ages of 26 and 49. That’s greater than 700,000 residents in California who don’t qualify now due to their immigration status.

“It is a historic moment for California, reaching a goal that was nearly not possible just seven years ago,” Sen. María Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, said following the announcement of the state budget agreement.  Health care, she said, “is a human right.”

It’s the last piece of a goal that immigrant-rights supporters have been pushing for years.

“We’re who we’re as a state due to the contributions of immigrants. We want to guard and defend and really value our employees who must have access to all the security net programs, including health care,” said Luz Gallegos, executive director of the immigrant-rights advocacy TODEC Legal Center in Riverside County.

TODEC recently held one in a series of workshops to coach residents concerning the changes and help them register for Medi-Cal, the state’s version of the federal Medicaid health care program for individuals with limited income.

That’s where Coronel, a 77-year-old Perris resident and retired farm employee, shared her story.

Isabel Coronel, 77. outside the TODEC Legal Center in Perris, CA. on Aug. 12, 2022. (Photo by Roxana Kopetman, Orange County Register/SCNG)

“I didn’t go to doctors,” Coronel said during an interview this week. “Repeatedly, we just relied on homemade cures.”

Then, Coronel got COVID-19 within the early stage of the pandemic and have become seriously unwell. So did her daughter. Farm employees she knew died, unable to get help.

In the summertime of 2021, Coronel joined Gallegos and other advocates in a gathering with Newsom where they pleaded their case.

“She talked about community members, our workforce, giving their life to California,” Gallegos said.

On the time, advocates were pushing state officials to cover older residents, but additionally expand coverage to everyone, no matter age or immigration status.

What pushed the needle, after years of advocacy, was the pandemic, which hit low-income employees the toughest, Gallegos said.

“It really took COVID for people’s moral consciousness to kick in. If it wasn’t for COVID, we wouldn’t be where we’re at,” Gallegos said.

Expanding Medi-Cal to eligible undocumented immigrants is anticipated to cost the state $2.2 billion on an ongoing basis, in response to an estimate by California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office.

The Department of Health Care Services estimates that greater than 1.1 million residents might be eligible to enroll by 2024: 119,000 children; 105,000 19 to 25-year-olds; 707,000 adults younger than 50; and 238,000 adults 50 or older, a spokesman said. The California Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates the variety of 26 to 49-year-olds could increase to 764,000 residents.

It’s estimated that California has some 2.5 million unauthorized immigrants. Individuals who qualify for Medi-Cal include disabled residents, pregnant women, and immigrants with refugee status. Residents whose income is at 138% of the federal poverty level also qualify — an income of $38,295 for a family of 4.

Unauthorized immigrants already qualified for emergency Medi-Cal services, and people were mechanically transferred into the total range of services offered under Medi-Cal when the brand new laws kicked in. In 2016, it began with coverage for kids as much as the age of 18. That was later expanded to young adults as much as the age of 26. And starting May 1, the low-cost and free coverage was offered to people older than 50.

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, previously told the Associated Press he was concerned the free health care move would make California “a magnet for individuals who will not be legally authorized to enter the country.”

RELATED: Older undocumented immigrants to get Medi-Cal health care in California

Not everyone jumped at the possibility to enroll.

Some people said they fear that information they share might be forwarded to immigration authorities. Others said they fear in the event that they tap such resources it could possibly be used against them in the event that they seek a legal everlasting residency card and eventually U.S. citizenship.

Marivel Castaneda, with Riverside County’s Department of Public Social Services, has this message: “Don’t be afraid. All of your information is confidential.”

As for being considered a “public charge” if applying for health care help, earlier this yr, the Biden administration moved away from regulations that counted Medicaid enrollment against applicants in search of legal residency.

For Coronel — known locally as “La Coronela” — the brand new law expanded to those over the age of fifty has already made an incredible difference.

“It’s helped me loads,” she said. “I’ve been suffering for therefore long but I didn’t see any doctors.”

For the primary time, she also began seeing a dentist and an optometrist, along with regular doctor visits for various ailments.

Her next appointment is in October.

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