Tens of Thousands of Young Adult Californians Will Keep Health Coverage Under New DHCS Action

  • A projected 40,000 young adult Californians who are undocumented immigrants and covered in Medi-Cal through age 25 were set to “age out” in the next year, whenever the public health emergency ends.
  • Responding to advocacy by the #Health4All coalition, DHCS’ action allows them to stay covered until January 2024, when the exclusion based on immigration status in Medi-Cal will be fully removed.
  • Health, community, and immigrant advocates applaud this move that will prevent a gap in care for tens of thousands of Californians.

SACRAMENTO,CA — Health, community, and immigrant rights advocates applaud the action taken today by the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) to prevent tens of thousands of Californians from being dropped from Medi-Cal coverage.

Medi-Cal currently covers all income-eligible Californians, regardless of immigration status, up to age 25 and age 50 and older. This year’s state budget extends coverage to the remaining population, age 26-49, but not until January 2024. This meant that 40,000 young adults turning age 26 in the next year would have been faced with the possibility of losing coverage before being eligible again in January of 2024.

The #Health4All coalition, made up of dozens of health, community, and immigrant groups that championed Medi-Cal inclusion for undocumented Californians, along with legislative champions Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula and Senator Maria Elena Durazo, raised this issue within DHCS and worked together to find a way to preserve this coverage and prevent gaps in vital health care services.

“This action by California’s Department of Health Care Services is the right thing to do. Providing continuous coverage means that tens of thousands of young Californians won’t face a disruptions in care, keeping them covered and healthier as a result,” said Jose Torres Casillas, policy and legislative advocate for Health Access California, a co-chair of the #Health4All campaign. “California is again leading the way in making our health care system work better for all communities, regardless of income, age, or immigration status. As we’ve learned these last few years, all Californians benefit when we all have access to comprehensive, accessible health care services.”

“The California Immigrant Policy Center welcomes today’s announcement from DHCS ensuring that 40,000 young adults will maintain their health coverage until Jan. 1, 2024, when Medi-Cal will be available to all Californians ages 26-49, regardless of immigration status,” said Connie Choi, Policy Director at the California Immigrant Policy Center, a co-chair of the #Health4All campaign. “Protecting these young adults–who currently have Medi-Cal–from losing coverage, only to become eligible again shortly thereafter, will prevent needless gaps in health care services and medication that people need. Securing this administrative action by DHCS could not have been possible without the advocacy of the Health4All Coalition.”

The #Health4All campaign, co-chaired by the California Immigrant Policy Center and Health Access California, has been working to remove barriers in Medi-Cal due to immigration status for nearly a decade. Starting in 2016, the campaign advocated and won coverage in Medi-Cal for all income-eligible children regardless of immigration status. In 2020, young adults up to age 26 gained coverage and then in 2022, those 50 and older. This year saw the major victory of reaching #Health4All in Medi-Cal with a commitment in the budget to fully remove the exclusion based on immigration status, including for those 26-49 by January 2024.

The national public health emergency (PHE) due to the COVID-19 pandemic currently prevents patients from being dropped from Medicaid coverage. However, when the PHE ends, all those in Medicaid would need to face a “redetermination” process to remain enrolled. Now, no matter when the PHE ends, DHCS will provide those turning 26 (or “aging out”) with state-funded full-scope Medi-Cal coverage to bridge the gap until full expansion occurs in January 2024. This will be done by instructing counties to deprioritize this population during their annual redetermination after the end of the public health emergency. DHCS updated the Medi-Cal COVID-19 PHE Operational Unwinding Plan to reflect changes to the policy for this population.