Newsom signs law expanding Medi-Cal to undocumented Californians over age of 50

Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday signed a first-in-the-nation law, expanding full-scope Medi-Cal eligibility to low-income adults 50 years of age or older, regardless of immigration status.

Newsom's office called the new legislation "a major milestone in the state’s progress toward universal health coverage."

Under AB 133, approximately 235,000 Californians aged 50 years and older are newly eligible for Medi-Cal, including preventive services, long-term care and In-Home Supportive Services.

Seniors who are eligible can apply in May. 

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"We’re investing California’s historic surplus to accomplish transformative changes we've long dreamed of – including this historic Medi-Cal expansion to ensure thousands of older undocumented Californians, many of whom have been serving on the front lines of the pandemic, can access critical health care services," said Governor Newsom. "I thank the Legislature for its steadfast partnership to bring California closer to universal health care coverage and advance comprehensive initiatives to ensure California’s communities come back from the pandemic stronger and healthier than before."

In 2019, California became the first state to extend Medi-Cal coverage to all eligible undocumented young adults up to the age of 26 and with Tuesday’s expansion, the state has the most inclusive health coverage for low-income persons in the country.

AB 133 also extends the Medi-Cal postpartum care period from 60 days to 12 months without requiring a mental health diagnosis, including for eligible undocumented Californians.

While 66% of Californians — and 82% of California Democrats — say they support providing health coverage to undocumented immigrants, only 20% of Republicans do, according to a March survey from the Public Policy Institute of California. The same group issued a study showing that undocumented immigrants and their family members do not use more emergency department services than other immigrants. 

Proponents included the Latino Legislative Caucus. 

Opponents have cited concerns about finances, and about taxpayer dollars going toward health care for people who enter the state illegally. However, in the end, there were only eight votes against the bill. 

Nearly 1.3 million undocumented Californians will remain uninsured in 2022, according to the UC Berkeley Labor Center. 

The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that ongoing costs for expanding full-scope Medi-Cal coverage to all Californians would be about $2 billion annually.

For full text of the bill, click here.

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KTVU contributed to this report.