By Bill Hendrickson
Maria Elena Durazo, the state senator representing Northeast Los Angeles, has introduced SB 56, a bill that would expand Medi-Cal health care coverage to undocumented, low-income seniors age 65 and older.
The bill comes on the heels of other expansions that allow children and young adults who are undocumented to obtain Medi-Cal coverage. It would apply to an estimated 35,000 people, a sliver of the state’s undocumented population of 1.5 million. An estimated $120 million expansion, it would also be a tiny fraction of the state’s huge health care budget.
Durazo has pointed out the health care is a human right and that expanding Medi-Cal to undocumented seniors is a step toward achieving the governor’s priority of universal health care coverage. She has also pointed out that undocumented residents contribute $3.2 billion in taxes for programs like Medi-Cal and yet undocumented seniors are explicitly excluded from coverage. The pandemic is another reason to expand Medi-Cal, says Durazo, because Latinos have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus and seniors are especially vulnerable. “Only quality healthcare for all will make us all safer,” she says.
A companion measure to SB 56 in the state assembly, AB 4, would expand Medi-Cal to undocumented residents of all ages who would be eligible but for their immigration status. Wendy Carrillo, the state assemblymember for Northeast L.A., is a co-author of AB 4.
Both SB 56 and Ab 4 are now being considered in the Health committees of the Senate and Assembly, respectively.