Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic Health & Immigrant Rights Groups Highlight Urgent Need to Expand Medi-Cal For All Seniors

Rachel Linn Gish, Health Access California,, 916-532-2128
Sumeet Bal, California Immigrant Policy Center,, (917) 647-1952



SACRAMENTO, CA – This week, over 75 organizations from the #Health4All Coalition submitted a letter to Governor Newsom and legislative leaders asking for expedited implementation of an expansion in Medi-Cal to income-eligible undocumented seniors age 65 and over in order to help combat the public health crisis created by COVID-19. In the January, Governor Newsom proposed as part of the 2020-2021 budget to provide full-scope Medi-Cal to an estimated 27,000 low-income undocumented seniors by removing immigration status as an eligibility exclusion. If passed, that proposal was set to begin on January 1, 2021.

According to the California Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 resource page, “some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness. This includes older adults (65+).” The submitted letter emphasized that beyond that, California’s low-income elders are especially vulnerable: “Seniors are more medically fragile and face barriers that make it harder for them to access care during times of social distancing. Our undocumented seniors are even more at risk because they are excluded from many vital services altogether. There is no justification for leaving them out of comprehensive health care in the midst of this crisis. Besides humanitarian concerns, doing so will severely undermine efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 throughout the nation.”

“This public health emergency shows how deeply our health is connected to that of our friends, neighbors, and especially our elders, who are most at risk,” said Cynthia Buiza, Executive Director, California Immigrant Policy Center. “We call on Governor Newsom to recognize our shared humanity and take action now to protect the health of every Californian, especially undocumented seniors.”

The budget proposal to provide Medi-Cal to all income-eligible seniors, regardless of immigration status, is now more urgent than ever,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California. “California should not delay, and in fact should expedite this planned expansion to this at-risk population that is currently excluded from coverage.”

Since 2013, the #Health4All Coalition, comprised of immigrant rights activists, health care advocates, and community members from across California, has advocated for expansion of health care to all Californians, regardless of immigration status. Undocumented immigrants are unfairly excluded from financial help for coverage through the ACA, and even from using a state marketplace like Covered California to purchase health coverage using their own money. And while many of the most populous California counties serve the undocumented through their safety-net, too many counties still do not. Yet undocumented Californians are a key part of our community and economy and should be included in our health system as well.
In 2016 California invested in providing full-scope Medi-Cal to all low-income children, regardless of their immigration status. Since then, “Health4All Kids” has resulted in the successful enrollment of over 250,000 undocumented children in life-saving healthcare. In 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a state budget plan that funded a further expansion of Medi-Cal to include low-income undocumented young adults ages 19-25.