The age range to qualify for full Medi-Cal benefits was expanded this week from those aged 55 and older to those aged 50 and older, allowing more than 185,000 Californians to be enrolled in the program.
The new minimum age, spurred by the passage of AB 133 last year, also comes with multiple factors that spread coverage to more in California. The largest one is immigration status, which will no longer count as a reason to deny care for those above the age of 50, ending all the “restrictive scope” coverages that had greatly limited medical care for illegal immigrants before. Under AB 133 coming into effect, full-scope Medi-Cal coverage can be given to all, with the those currently enrolled in the more restrictive restricted scope Medi-Cal now being allowed to switch over to full-scope.
Governor Gavin Newsom, who is currently trying to get universal Medi-Cal coverage for all this year, including illegal immigrants and those with questionable legality status, praised the Medi-Cal expansion, even liking it to the first step towards his universal plans.
“We’re delivering concrete results for Californians, continuing to fulfill the promise of a Healthy California for All, and I encourage all those eligible to take advantage of these essential health services,” said Governor Newsom on Monday. “This is an investment in our people, our economy, and our future. But we’re not stopping there. California is on the path to expanding Medi-Cal to all eligible Californians regardless of age or immigration status, providing the most comprehensive health coverage in the entire country.”
However, many worry what the expansion, which took effect May 1st, will do to California and what it could mean for the state’s finances.
“Suddenly paying the medical bills for hundreds of thousands more people is not cheap,” said Michael, a health care specialist in Fresno County who helps with many cases of healthcare for illegal immigrants, to the Globe on Tuesday. “It’s not just things like preventive care either, but we’re talking about procedures that, out of pocket, costs thousands on a visit. And now the state is paying for all of that. Never trust the health plan where the person paying it isn’t seeing the price tag easily.”
“In the last few days we’ve seen a very noticeable uptick in people applying for Medi-Cal or trying to change their coverage. It’s good that more people are getting care, but there is the cost effect to consider when this happens too. In the end, Californians are the one with the tab at the end. Undocumented immigrants deserve healthcare, of course, but there have to be better ways to achieve this than this program. It’s not the cure-all people seem to think it is and it’s only going to lead to new problems while keeping most of the old ones in.”
Starting this month, those 50 and older regardless of immigration status can apply for Medi-Cal here. Newsom’s universal Medi-Cal plan has yet to be passed for next year and is expected to be scrutinized more closely as the deadline for next years budget looms.