One of the most often asked questions about Medi-Cal benefits is this: Can Immigrants Get Medi-Cal in California, including those who are undocumented? The answer depends on several factors, including the immigration status of the person and their age. California has in recent years expanded Medi-Cal to cover additional groups of undocumented immigrants, but not all. Governor Newsome has plans to expand coverage for more undocumented immigrants. In this post, we will review Medi-Cal for immigrants in California – plus who is covered and future plans for additional coverage.
First, we will review Medi-Cal eligibility for Immigrants.
Next, we will explain Medi-Cal expansion to undocumented immigrants in California, including full-scope Medi-Cal for seniors.
Also, we will provide details on Medi-Cal income limits for Immigrants.
Lastly, we will provide the four ways to apply for Medi-Cal.
I’m an immigrant. Can I get Medi-Cal?
It depends on your immigration status. Here’s what you need to know:
Most Immigrants Qualify for Health Coverage.
Under the Affordable Care Act, most immigrants qualify for health coverage, including the following groups:
- Lawful permanent residents or (“green card holders”).
- Lawful temporary residents.
- Persons fleeing persecution, including refugees and asylees.
- Other humanitarian immigrants, including those granted temporary protected status.
- Non-immigrant status holders (including worker visas and student visas).
All children 0-18 that are able to get Medi-Cal can get complete health care through Medi-Cal.
Their immigration status does not matter.
Undocumented Immigrants’ Access to Medi-Cal
In California, undocumented children and young adults who are 25 years old or younger can get Medi-Cal coverage, if they meet all other program requirements.
However, undocumented adults who are 26 years old and older do not qualify for full Medi-Cal coverage, though they may qualify for Medi-Cal coverage for emergencies or during pregnancy.
Medi-Cal Expansion to cover Undocumented Immigrants in California
Starting on May 1, 2022, California expanded full Medi-Cal coverage to individuals who are 50 years of age or older, regardless of immigration status.
The law will benefit about 235,000 Californians.
Individuals ages 50 and over, regardless of their immigration status, who have not applied for Medi-Cal can apply here starting May 1, 2022.
Gaps Remain in Health Coverage
After Medi-Cal expands to cover undocumented immigrants 50 and older, about 3.2 million people will remain uninsured in California.
Of those, 1.16 million will be undocumented immigrants.
Proposal by Governor Newsom
Governor Gavin Newsom wants to make California the first state to remove immigration status as a barrier to eligibility for Medicaid, making health insurance accessible to all undocumented residents with low incomes.
A new proposal unveiled in Governor Newsom’s January 2022 budget, would include Medi-Cal coverage for another 700,000 undocumented adults in the 26 to 49 age group.
If approved, this will start in early as 2024. Children and young adults are already eligible.
Most are Farmworkers
Seventy-five percent of undocumented farmworkers fell into this age group as of 2018, the most recent year of data available.
Numbering around 162,500, California’s farmworkers are a vital link in the food supply chain for the state and nation.
California’s agricultural sector produced over $50 billion in revenue in 2019; the critical role farmworkers play in the state’s economy underscores the importance of access to health care for these workers, an issue accentuated by the COVID pandemic.
A poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) in 2021 found two-thirds of adults surveyed supported tax-paid healthcare for immigrants without legal status.
That was up from 54% in 2015, the last time the institute asked the question.
However, even if Newsom’s next step is approved — covering undocumented adults 26 to 49 years old as early as 2024 — that would still leave roughly 450,000 undocumented people under 65 with no health coverage.
That’s the difference between 1.16 million people and the 700,000 who would gain access.
What are the Medi-Cal Income Eligibility Requirements for Immigrants?
For most adult enrollees, the limit to qualify for Medi-Cal is 138% of the federal poverty level.
Additionally, eligibility takes into account income and household size.
Also, Certain groups like pregnant women qualify at slightly higher incomes.
Below are the 2022 California Medi-Cal income limits for adults based on household size.
|Family Size||Monthly Income Limit (138% of FPL)||Annual Income Limit (138% of FPL)|
For income limits for other Medi-Cal eligible groups in California, see our Medi-Cal in California income limit guide.
How to Apply for Medi-Cal in California
You can apply for Medi-Cal year-round.
Option 1 – In Person
Apply for Medi-Cal at your Local County Services Office, where you can get personal help completing your application.
Option 2 – By Mail
Download a Medi-Cal application, available in English and other languages, through the Single Streamlined Application, which you can find here.
Send the completed and signed application to the address provided on the form.
Option 3 – By Phone
You can also apply for Medi-Cal over the phone, by calling your Local County Services Office.
Option 4 – Online
The fastest way to apply for Medi-Cal is online. Here, you have two options:
You can apply for Medi-Cal online through Benefitscal.com.
In addition, you can sign up for Medi-Cal online through Covered California.
CoveredCA.com is a joint partnership between Covered California and the Department of Health Care Services.
Apply for Medi-Cal by County
You can also view our guide on how to apply for Medi-Cal by county – listed alphabetically:
California Medi-Cal for immigrants Summary
We hope this post on California Medi-Cal for immigrants was helpful.
If you have further questions about Medi-Cal, please let us know in the comments section below.
Be sure to check out our other articles about Medi-Cal and California Medicaid program, including: