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California May Extend Medicaid to Undocumented Immigrants. Will Trump Weaken the Plan?

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Undocumented immigrants make up the largest group of uninsured people in California.

California came one step closer to becoming the first state to extend Medicaid to adult undocumented immigrants this week. 

After the state senate proposed expanding coverage to undocumented young adults and seniors, Governor Gavin Newsom proposed an amended version, which would cover only undocumented immigrants ages 19 to 25. Then on Tuesday, the California assembly passed a bill expanding Medicaid coverage to undocumented adults of all ages. The senate still has to weigh in, but some estimates show a full expansion could make as many as 1.15 million people eligible.

This isn’t the first time California has tried to expand Medicaid to reach undocumented immigrants, who make up the largest group of uninsured people in the state. But the change would be significant, particularly as the Trump administration has proposed several policies that would keep immigrants—both legal and undocumented—from receiving government benefits, including health care.

Although Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients and undocumented children in California are already allowed to enroll in Medicaid (known in the state as Medi-Cal), federal policy bars adult undocumented immigrants from receiving Medicaid or purchasing plans through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace. Instead, they must rely on a patchwork of health-care services that do not cover a wide array of health conditions. Those undocumented immigrants who are able to enroll in a limited Medi-Cal plan do not have coverage for chemotherapy or care to manage asthma, diabetes, or high blood pressure, according to analysis from the University of California–Berkeley Labor Center. 

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