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New Law Will Expand Medi-Cal to 170K Undocumented Children

On Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill (SB 4) to extend health care coverage to low-income undocumented immigrant children, the Los Angeles Times' "PolitiCal" reports.

Details of Bill

According to "PolitiCal," SB 4 -- by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) -- will implement $40 million allocated in the fiscal year 2015-2016 state budget to provide Medi-Cal coverage to undocumented children 18 years old and younger. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program (Mason, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 10/9).

Under the law, the state in May 2016 will begin extending Medi-Cal coverage to about 170,000 undocumented immigrant children under age 19. The expansion is projected to cost $40 million in the next fiscal year and about $132 million annually following implementation.

Initially, the bill also sought a federal waiver to allow adult undocumented immigrants to buy unsubsidized health plans through Covered California.

However, Lara last month removed from the bill language seeking the federal waiver, citing difficulty in garnering support that late in the legislative session (California Healthline, 9/9).

Instead, eligible children already receiving limited public health care will be automatically enrolled in comprehensive Medi-Cal coverage under the new law.

Lara's Comments

Lara said, "This is a major investment that California is doing, and it's completely the reverse of what we're seeing at the national level."

He added that expansions for children eventually could lead to coverage for all undocumented immigrants.

Lara said, "We can demonstrate that not only is there a need, but we can implement this successfully," adding, "It's a precursor for us to getting health care for all in the next year or so" ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 10/9).

Lara has said he will pursue separate legislation (SB 10) to extend health coverage to all immigrants, regardless of status, next year (California Healthline, 9/9).

Reaction

In a statement, the California Children's Health Coverage Coalition applauded the signing of SB 4.

The group said, "By providing children with health coverage and ensuring that they can enroll smoothly into care, we save lives, improve school performance and create positive impacts that last into adulthood," adding, "The measures in SB 4 create the necessary pathway for California to expand coverage to undocumented children with the effectiveness and expediency that their health deserves" (CCHCC release, 10/9).

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