Calif. extends healthcare coverage to undocumented young adults

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California has become the first state to extend healthcare coverage to some undocumented young adults through its Medicaid program.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday signed SB-104, which extends healthcare benefits to individuals 19 to 25 years of age, regardless of their immigration status.

The bill was introduced earlier this year and was initially proposed by Newsom as part of a larger healthcare package. It is expected to cover some 90,000 low-income residents between the ages of 19 and 25 and to cost the state $98 million in its initial year. The coverage would take effect in 2020, according to the legislation.

The federal Medicaid program prohibits payment to a state for medical assistance furnished to an undocumented immigrant who is not lawfully admitted for permanent residence or otherwise permanently residing in the United States under color of law, according to the bill.

Under the new law, California’s Medi-Cal coverage would be extended to those between 19 to 25 years of age, whether they have “satisfactory immigration status” or not. California already offers a healthcare plan for those younger than 19, regardless of their immigration status.

According to the website for the state’s healthcare marketplace, Covered California, “Medi-Cal” is a program offering free or low-cost health coverage for children and adults with limited income and resources.

The bill, which was one of nine that Newsom signed on Tuesday, will provide enhanced premium subsidies to help middle-class residents buy coverage on the Affordable Care Act exchange. It will be paid for by restoring a state version of the individual mandate, which requires residents to have health insurance or pay a penalty. Republicans in Congress effectively eliminated the federal mandate as part of the 2017 tax law.

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