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Undocumented young adults qualify for health care until age 26 in new state budget

Gavin Newsom’s annual budget will allocate $98 million to extend the length of Medi-Cal coverage for undocumented young adults between the ages of 19 to 25. (Kristie-Valerie Hoang/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Kalysa To

May 13, 2019 10:43 p.m.

Undocumented young adults may continue receiving health care coverage from the state until age 26, according to the governor’s budget report.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2019-2020 state budget, which was revised Thursday, stated the budget will allocate $98 million to extend the length of Medi-Cal coverage for young adults between the ages of 19 and 25 regardless of immigration status. Medi-Cal provides free or low-cost health coverage for low-income individuals in California.

Previously under Senate Bill 75, only those under the age of 19, including undocumented individuals, were eligible for Medi-Cal. Newsom’s proposal would extend Medi-Cal eligibility to age 26.

Several faculty members said they support this change.

Randall Akee, an associate professor of public policy, previously researched how populations were affected when they lost access to Medicaid.

Akee found that a lack of health care led to increased emergency room visits. He said his research predicts that Newsom’s proposal could cut down these costly visits by encouraging undocumented people to seek preventative care.

“They have a guaranteed source of medical coverage, so they would take the preventative care that otherwise results in increased emergency room visits down the line,” Akee said.

Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, an associate professor of Chicana and Chicano studies, said he supports Newsom’s proposal because he thinks undocumented young adults are productive participants in the labor market who pay taxes and deserve health care.

“They are paying taxes and they’re not getting services like everybody else is,” Hinojosa-Ojeda said. “It’s deeply unfair, and (Newsom’s proposal is) a righting of an important moral wrong that can be identified in the nation right now.”

He added this change will make health care more inclusive of undocumented individuals and will make them more productive members of the economy, which will benefit society as a whole.

Burt Cowgill, an adjunct assistant professor of health policy and management, said while he thinks this is a change that a majority of California policymakers will support, some may be concerned that taxpayer dollars are funding people who are in the state illegally.

“Our tax dollars are going to pay for their needs either way, and I would rather pay for preventive and health-promoting care than paying for reactive care that’s addressing things that we could’ve addressed in the system earlier if they had better access,” Cowgill said.

Cowgill said the policy change should be heavily publicized so people know how it will affect them and how they can receive health care.

Steven Wallace, a professor of community health sciences and the associate center director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, said he also supports this change because it furthers California’s goal of health care for all.

“Health care is a basic human right and people who make their homes in California, who contribute to the economy through work or raising families, are a part of our communities, should have access to health care,” Wallace said.

Wallace said he thinks this proposal is a step toward expanding health care to all people in California. He added although this change is an improvement, the state should strive toward providing health care for all Californians.

“This is another great step forward, but there’s still several more steps until all Californians have equitable access to health care,” Wallace said. “So this is a great step, but politicians should not think it’s the last step.”

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