Proposal To Limit Immigrants’ Medi-Cal Benefits Spurs Criticism
Advocates say Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) proposal to limit health benefits to documented immigrants will affect access to care for the state's neediest populations, the Ventura County Star reports.
The plan is part of Schwarzenegger's proposed $1.1 billion in Medi-Cal cuts to reduce the state's $15.2 billion deficit. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
State officials say the state would save about $87 million by limiting health services to about 91,000 immigrants per month, many of whom are in California legally.
Under the plan, documented immigrants who came to the U.S. in the past five years would not qualify for Medi-Cal coverage of routine care or treatment for any nonemergency condition. The new limits would mean documented immigrants have the same Medi-Cal benefits as undocumented immigrants -- emergency care, prenatal care and nursing home coverage.
In addition, the state would save about $42 million annually by requiring undocumented immigrants to obtain new Medi-Cal identification cards for emergency services each month, rather than annually.
Jan Emerson, spokesperson for the California Hospital Association, said about 10% of total uncompensated costs for hospitals, or about $970 million annually, can be attributed to undocumented immigrants.
Stan Rosenstein, chief deputy director for the California Department of Healthcare Services, said restricting benefits saves the state more money because it will not lose federal matching funds for Medi-Cal.
Assembly and Senate budget committees have voted against the proposals and other Medi-Cal cuts, but state officials say they will continue to push for the cuts.
Immigration advocates argue that the cuts will prevent patients from obtaining preventive care, thus increasing emergency department visits and costs to taxpayers.
Tony Alatorre, COO for Clinicas Camino del Real, added that other Medi-Cal cuts to eliminate dental programs, remove some working poor from eligibility and make it more difficult to find physicians also victimize immigrants (Kisken, Ventura County Star, 6/23).