On October 19, Governor Gavin Newsom and the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) announced that roughly 286,000 older adult Californians are receiving full scope Medi-Cal thanks to the expansion of comprehensive preventive care and other services to all income-eligible adults 50 years of age and older, regardless of immigration status. This follows Governor Newsom’s action in July 2021 to enact this expansion in collaboration with Senator María Elena Durazo and Asssemblymember Joaquin Arambula in the 2021-22 state budget.
This latest expansion of Medi-Cal coverage brings California closer to Governor Newsom’s promise of universal access to health care coverage, regardless of age or immigration status.
“We’re making sure that universal access to health care coverage becomes a reality here in California, and this expansion has gotten us one step closer – more than a quarter million undocumented Californians aged 50 and older now have good, quality health care,” said Governor Newsom.
Rigoberto D, age 64:
“I am pre-diabetic, and I have arthritis, high blood pressure, and dental needs. Previously, I was unable to receive proper care and fill my prescriptions due to a lack of health care coverage and the high out-of-pocket expenses.
“Since recently being approved for and now having full Medi-Cal coverage, I am able to schedule appointments to start treatment for my conditions. I am extremely grateful for and excited about this coverage.”
DHCS implemented the older adult expansion to provide state-funded full scope Medi-Cal to individuals 50 years of age or older who are ineligible for federally-funded full scope Medi-Cal because of their immigration status. Included are individuals 50 years of age or older who were enrolled in restricted scope Medi-Cal prior to implementation of the older adult expansion on May 1.
“Thousands of additional Californians are now getting the health coverage they need to live long, healthy lives,” said DHCS Director Michelle Baass. “When all Californians have access to equitable, quality health care, our entire health system is stronger.”
Expanding health coverage to older Californians benefits individuals of all ages. Illness and injury do not discriminate. When all Californians are given access to preventive services, and regular health care, and home-based care, they stay healthier and avoid the emergency room and nursing home. Eliminating disparities in health coverage is critical to address racial disparities in health.
The state has worked for the last several years to extend comprehensive health coverage to more Californians. In May 2016, children under 19 years of age became eligible for full scope Medi-Cal benefits, and in January 2020, full scope Medi-Cal was extended to young adults ages 19 through 25, regardless of immigration status. These individuals previously only qualified for restricted scope Medi-Cal services, such as emergency, prenatal, and long-term care. Now they can access the full range of benefits available to full scope Medi-Cal beneficiaries, including no-cost/low-cost quality health, mental health, substance use disorder services, vision, and dental care, and home and community based services.
The next step in California’s commitment to a Healthy California for All is the expansion of full scope Medi-Cal coverage to an estimated 700,000-plus adults ages 26 through 49 who do not have a satisfactory immigration status for federally funded full scope Medi-Cal, effective January 1, 2024.
“These four expansions will, in the end, result in all lower-income Californians being able to access quality, affordable health services,” said Baass. “The expanded coverage and new enrollments are very much the result of increased advocacy and outreach efforts undertaken by our county and community-based partners. Together we are building a Healthy California for All.”
Cristina S, age 55:
“I am so excited to receive this health coverage so I can see my doctor regularly without having to pay out of pocket. I now have access to care to see specialists, like a urologist, podiatrist, and even an ophthalmologist.
I would not have this type of medical and dental care before because it was too expensive to afford. This coverage is vital for me to be healthy and be able to continue working. Even during the pandemic, I am now able to receive good medical care.”
The expansion to older Californians is also a part of the Governor’s Master Plan for Aging strategy, “Health Care as We Age.” The Master Plan for Aging outlines five bold goals and 23 strategies to implement the Governor’s vision for a “California for All Ages & Abilities” by 2030. On September 20, state policymakers, consumers, providers, advocates, caregivers, and others gathered for a day-long discussion on advancing the MPA, including expansion of care, particularly age-inclusive and culturally responsive care. The Data Dashboard for Aging will be regularly updated and improved to monitor progress on Master Plan for Aging priorities through 2030.
“The Master Plan for Aging affirms the priority of the health and well-being of older Californians and the need for policies, such as the Medi-Cal coverage expansions, that promote access to care that makes healthy aging possible,” said California Health & Human Services (CalHHS) Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly.
Finally, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently published a new regulation that makes it clear that immigrants can access health care, food and housing support, and other public benefits without fear of immigration consequences. CalHHS released a guide (available in multiple languages) that provides more information and community resources.