Medi-Cal Rolls Could Swell Under Obama’s Deportation Relief Plan

Soumya Karlamangla, Los Angeles Times, March 25, 2015

President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, which have sparked a fierce political backlash nationwide, could also provide an unlikely boost for another of his goals: increasing health insurance signups.

Immigrants living in the U.S. without permission can’t enroll in Obamacare, but an unusual policy in California allows those granted temporary relief from deportation to sign up for Medi-Cal. That means up to half a million more Californians could apply for the state’s low-income health program, according to data released Wednesday by UC Berkeley and UCLA.

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Although immigrant and health advocates support insuring this largely poor population, others worry that the state medical program will be unable to keep up with demand.

Medi-Cal has ballooned in recent years and now covers more than 12 million people, almost a third of the state’s residents. That has raised concern about the state’s ability to keep paying for the program–which costs the state $18 billion a year–while maintaining enough doctors to care for millions of newly insured patients.

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Betty Jaspeado, who lives in Los Angeles, plans to apply for deportation relief and enroll in the healthcare program. {snip}

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Obama’s November executive action protects people who have lived in the country for at least five years and are parents of children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. The president also expanded his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which offers deportation relief to youth who entered the country illegally.

However, dozens of states sued to stop these new programs, and a federal judge in Texas ordered a temporary halt.

If that injunction is lifted, Jaspeado would be among an estimated 1.25 million immigrants who would now qualify for some kind of relief in California. Of that total, 66% would be eligible for Medi-Cal based on their income, according to a policy brief from the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

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A single person can qualify for Medi-Cal if they earn no more than $16,105 a year. The ceiling is $21,708 for a two-person household and $32,913 for a four-person family. Immigrants who lack papers, even those eligible for deportation relief, still cannot buy insurance through the state’s Obamacare exchange, Covered California.

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