Well-Being Prevention & Cures

California may start providing undocumented seniors health insurance

immigrants ICE health care california governor gavin newsom seniors 65 illegal undocumented status immigration budget
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Story at a glance

  • Gov. Newsom is expected to include health care for undocumented seniors as part of the state budget plan.
  • The current California system covers minors and young adults, regardless of citizenship status.
  • Including seniors in state health coverage is projected to cost $2.4 billion.

California is expected to include seniors without a legal immigration status in its Medi-Cal program, allowing all elderly residents to be covered by state health insurance regardless of immigration status. It will give coverage to adults who are 65 and older. 

This state’s already allowed other low-income immigrants — regardless of citizenship status — to be eligible for medical coverage, including children and young adults. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is expected to add seniors into this program, either through the forthcoming budget proposal or legislation. 

Reports state that proponents for health care expansion, namely California State Senator María Elena Durazo (D), worked with Gov. Newsom to introduce it into the state spending plan after he promised his support in September 2019. 



Estimates show that the cost of covering undocumented seniors will be approximately $121 million dollars a year, which, although isn’t a gargantuan chunk out of the state’s $215 billion budget, could have adverse effects, like long lines in the wake of a shortage of doctors who accept state health care. 

In January 2020, California became the first state to provide coverage for undocumented adult immigrants younger than 26 after initially expanding Medi-Cal to undocumented children.

The Affordable Care Act explicitly prohibits federal funds from covering undocumented immigrant health care, meaning that California taxpayers would need to cover all costs. The Los Angeles Times reports that expanding Medi-Cal coverage to all adults who meet income qualifications regardless of immigration status or age would cost $2.4 billion annually. 

Reports estimate that more than 25,000 people in the 65-and-older age demographic who are undocumented within California would sign up for Medi-Cal with the expanded coverage.