Roughly one million undocumented immigrants in California qualify for President Obama’s executive action of deferred deportation that he announced on Thursday. Of those 40% will be eligible for the states free Medi-Cal health services, while the remaining will be ineligible under the program’s income requirements.
Medi-Cal is the state’s name for Medicaid, a federal health services program for people who have low income. According to KQED News, the newly protected illegal immigrants do not qualify for other benefits of the Affordable Care Act and are not eligible for subsidies on the Covered California exchange.
“They’ll be in the same situation as DACA,” said Gabrielle Lessard, a health policy attorney with the Los Angeles office of the National Immigration Law Center. Lessard was referring to a 2012 executive action by the president known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA granted deferred deportation to children born in America from parents who were in the country illegally.
California extends Medicaid benefits to DACA immigrants while most states do not. Ronald Coleman, government affairs manager for the California Immigrant Policy Center, explained to KQED in the California Report that deferred deportation means that the immigrants are now legal in the eyes of the law. He asserted that “California has historically covered broad populations of immigrants who reside in the state.”
Coleman added all those that qualify for deferred deportation are “work eligible and, as lawfully present immigrants, they will be eligible for the state Medi-Cal program … if they are income eligible.”
A Department of Health Care Services spokesman, Tony Cava, told KQED that so far they have not received any specifics on Obama’s latest executive action so they are “unable to assess any impact it might have on Medi-Cal services.”
Cava pointed out that any illegal immigrant requiring emergency health services must be taken care of and that none of their personal information can be used “for any type of civil immigration enforcement action under U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement law.”
Nevertheless, illegal immigrants remain reluctant to enroll in health insurance programs for fear of being deported or revealing the identity of other illegal relatives.