Medi-Cal now covers unauthorized immigrants age 50 and older

On Sunday, California extended Medi-Cal to undocumented immigrants 50 and older.

State officials estimate that up to 235,000 people will now be eligible for the public health care program for low-income Californians.

“It’s really exciting to see this finally implemented,” said Lindsey Wade, senior vice president of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Hospital Association. “It’s definitely something that we as a hospital community are excited about because it’s better coverage for patients.”

County hospitals have already started helping people enroll in the program, she added. Anyone eligible can register online via the San Diego County website.

According to San Diego County estimates, about 31,000 undocumented residents over the age of 50 could now benefit from Medi-Cal.

San Ysidro Health set up a hotline to help people register. Multilingual staff can talk to people throughout the process.

Ana Melgoza, vice president of external affairs for San Ysidro Health, said the expansion will help older immigrants with chronic health conditions.

“We know that 50 and over is important because of the chronic conditions that many people live with, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma,” she said. “If left unattended, that person’s quality of life and lifespan shortens dramatically.”

Raising awareness of this expansion is vital due to the fear and mistrust of the undocumented community, she added.

Some undocumented Californians are reluctant to enroll in government programs for fear that their information will be shared with federal immigration authorities.

Melagoza said Medi-Cal does not share information with federal agencies, so enrolling in the program will not impact a person’s immigration status.

According to California Center for Budget and Policy.

However, they are not eligible for certain benefits.

Expanding eligibility for Medi-Cal could cut costs and reduce pressure on emergency rooms, Melgoza added. That’s because uninsured people tend to wait for preventive care until they have no choice but to go to the emergency room, she said.

At San Ysidro Health, doctors are sometimes unable to refer uninsured patients to specialists. This expansion will help remove this barrier, she added.

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