New studies show the inclusion of immigrant youth; more to do!

Consumer, community, and health organizations cheered new studies today from University of California showing how the state has gone beyond federal law to extend coverage to immigrant youth who have “deferred action” status. The studies show that this expansion, including in last year’s California budget and Medi-Cal expansion under the Affordable Care Act, extends to 125,000 Californians with “deferred action” immigration status, including DREAM Act students and young adults.

The first two parts of the report are available for download at:

Californians should be proud that we are making smart investments in the education and health of potential leaders of the future, even beyond the minimums of federal law. We thank the Legislature and Governor for recognizing how important immigrants have been for our economy and our society, and the importance of investing in them, whether their education or their health. We should be proud that California is not just implementing the Affordable Care Act, but is taking the extra step to help cover many of the DREAM students and other immigrants who are here to stay. We have an interest in keeping all Californians healthy, and we hope this step is just the first toward a health system that includes everyone. California’s health system is stronger when everyone has access to care and coverage. By ensuring that Californians have that access, counties can make sure that their residents are healthy and contributing economically to their communities.

California has long run a state-only Medi-Cal program for some patients excluded from federal Medicaid program, including recent legal immigrants here for less than five years, and “people residing under the color of law.  This expansion by the Legislature and Governor extends that commitment to those who have recognition by the federal government under “deferred action,” such as some DREAM Act students.

Immigrants are central to our communities and economy–they need to be fully included in our health system, too. This benefit would prevent individuals and families from remaining uninsured, living sicker, dying younger, and being one accident away from financial ruin.

Many California families are mixed-status, where help is available to some but not all–but that then discourages some families from getting the care and coverage they need. We appreciate the studies for pointing out the many barriers that need to be addressed to include everyone in our health system in the most efficient and effective way.

Advocates hope that California leaders take the additional step this year of covering all Californians, regardless of immigration status. One current proposal is SB1005(Lara) that would further extend state-only Medi-Cal to those low-income Californians excluded from federal Medicaid; in addition, the bill would set up a mirror marketplace alongside Covered California to provide a similar service for those excluded by the Affordable Care Act. Opening the door to affordable health coverage for all Californians not only helps those families specifically, but improves the general public health and economic vitality and security of the entire community.