‘Deferred Action’ Residents Face Obstacles to Signing Up for Medi-Cal
An estimated 125,000 California residents ages 15 to 30 who qualify for Medi-Cal through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative face several challenges to obtaining health coverage, New America Media/Philippine Daily Inquirer reports (Sundaram, New America Media/Philippine Daily Inquirer, 6/18).
Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
Background on DACA
In 2012, President Obama developed DACA, which grants undocumented children legal status and authorization to work in the United States for two-year periods.
To be eligible for the program, children must:
- Have arrived in the U.S. before age 16;
- Be under age 31 as of June 2012; and
- Have continually lived in the U.S since 2007.
Although Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act bars coverage for undocumented immigrants, a caveat in California allows those with "deferred action status" to gain coverage (California Healthline, 4/3).
Details of Challenges
Despite qualifying for Medi-Cal, many Californians in the DACA program face challenges to obtaining health coverage, such as:
- Difficult paperwork requirements, including a 35-page form and a form requiring a Social Security number and tax filing status;
- County Medi-Cal workers being unaware of DACA beneficiaries' eligibility; and
- Problems with CalHEERS, the state's new online enrollment portal.
Suzie Shupe, executive director of California Coverage and Health Initiatives, said that parents filing a Medi-Cal application for their children who qualify for DACA often are nervous to turn in their personal information.
Shupe added, "We've heard reports from several counties that information has not gotten out to them," adding, "It's more than just a problem here and there.”
Frank Mecca, executive director of County Welfare Director’s Association of California, said the CalHEERS portal "does not recognize the DACA status and is only providing restricted Medi-Cal benefits rather than full-scope benefits."
In addition, there is a backlog of 900,000 Medi-Cal applications, and officials are unsure about how many of the unprocessed applications have been filed by DACA beneficiaries, New America Media/Philippine Daily Inquirer reports.
California Department of Health Care Services spokesperson Anthony Cava acknowledged that technological issues have contributed to delays in Medi-Cal coverage for DACA beneficiaries. He added that the agency is "working actively" to improve the CalHEERS portal (New America Media/Philippine Daily Inquirer, 6/18).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.