California Senate Proposes Health4All Undocumented Immigrant Elders

May 17, 2018

SACRAMENTO, CA – Today the Senate Budget Sub-Committee on Health and Human Services approved extending health coverage to all seniors living in poverty, regardless of their immigration status. The Health4All Elders proposal would fund comprehensive Medi-Cal coverage for those over age 65, including preventive care and regular doctor visits.

Health4All Elders will be included in the Senate funding package that representatives of the Senate, Assembly and Governor’s Office will negotiate before the June 15 budget deadline.

Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) has championed Health4All since 2014, and led the successful effort to extend full-scope Medi-Cal to 218,000 children in 2015. He is the author of SB 562 (2017) and SB 974 (2018), which would extend full coverage to undocumented adults with low incomes.

“Getting older without the security of a comprehensive health plan is unimaginable to most Californians but it is the reality for tens of thousands of our elders,” said Senator Lara. “Health4All Elders invests in older Californians who have lived here for decades, more than paid their share in taxes, and deserve dignity as they age.”

The estimated number of undocumented elders over age 65 without comprehensive healthcare ranges from 15,000 to 36,000. The vast majority of immigrant elders without healthcare have lived in California for more than 10 years and have U.S. born children, according to data from the Center for Migration Studies.

The budget proposal augments state funding for Medi-Cal by $75 million in 2018-19 and $150 million each year after.

California’s undocumented immigrants pay nearly $3.2 billion in state and local taxes, according to a 2016 report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy – far more than the estimated cost of health coverage.

Expanding Medi-Cal funding would ease the strain on emergency rooms and community clinics, according to a report by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Eligibility for Medi-Cal is 138% of the federal poverty level, about $33,000 for a family of four. Undocumented seniors typically receive only emergency care, costing three times or more and pushing elders to the brink of bankruptcy.

Elders are less than 1% of the estimated 2.6 million undocumented Californians, and many of the current seniors gained permanent residence during bipartisan immigration reform in the 1980s.

“It has been 32 years since Congress last passed comprehensive immigration reform for those already living in the U.S., and their failure should not fall on our elders’ shoulders,” said Senator Lara. “Dysfunction in Washington and Trump’s constant attacks on immigrants should not distract California from doing the right thing and extend healthcare to those who have given so much to our state.”