President Barack Obama announces executive actions on U.S. immigration policy Thursday. ( Jim Bourg-Pool/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama announces executive actions on U.S. immigration policy Thursday. ( Jim Bourg-Pool/Getty Images)

California undocumented immigrants who are eligible for deferred deportation under President Obama’s executive action are expected to be eligible for Medi-Cal, as long as they meet income guidelines, advocates said Thursday.

Medi-Cal is the state’s health insurance program for people who are low income.

Under federal law, these immigrants are not eligible for other benefits of the Affordable Care Act, including subsidies on the Covered California exchange.

Gabrielle Lessard is a health policy attorney with the Los Angeles office of the National Immigration Law Center. “They’ll be in the same situation as DACA,” she said, in reference to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Obama’s 2012 policy for young undocumented immigrants who had come to the United States as children.

While most states do not extend Medicaid benefits to DACA immigrants, California does.

“‘Deferred action’ means those individuals who are approved are  considered lawfully present,” said Ronald Coleman, government affairs manager for the California Immigrant Policy Center. “California has historically covered broad populations of immigrants who reside in the state.”

Both Lessard and Coleman insisted no legislative action was necessary, that existing state law extends Medi-Cal benefits to immigrants who qualify under Obama’s action.

Coleman said the immigrants benefitting from Obama’s action will be “work eligible and, as lawfully present immigrants, they will be eligible for the state Medi-Cal program … if they are income eligible.”

But Tony Cava, spokesman for the state’s Department of Health Care Services said that since the agency has not received any details about the president’s action, “we are unable to assess any impact it might have on Medi-Cal services.”

Cava added that federal Medicaid law requires all states to provide emergency services to undocumented people and that any information that undocumented individuals provide to determine whether they qualify for Medi-Cal may not be used “for any type of civil immigration enforcement action under U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement law.”

Even though that information is not supposed to be used, the fear lingers. There are reports of lawfully-present immigrants hesitant to sign up for health insurance, if they must answer questions about undocumented family members. They worry about exposing undocumented relatives to enforcement scrutiny.

Coleman estimates that of the 5 million people affected nationally by Obama’s action, about 1 million of them live in California. But not all of them will be eligible for Medi-Cal, he said. Roughly 40 percent of undocumented immigrants receive employer-based insurance; others will make too much money to qualify for Medi-Cal.

  • Willis James

    Get ready for California to be severely strained if even half of the 1 million will now get Medi-Cal.
    After a few years, the states have to pay the bulk of the program.

    Do the math. 500,000 x $400 per month ($5,000 a year)
    That could add 2.5 billion to California’s budget

  • VAA

    So those that enter the country legally, follow the rules, and are patient get nothing. We also promise not to use government services like Medi-Cal, food stamps, etc. BUT if you don’t do these things you get the benefits because you are broke the rules.

    • Ray Fischer

      Don’t start lying, idiot. Medical is just as available to citizens and permanent residents.

      • mary

        Why are you calling him an idiot? Legal immigrants sign an agreement saying they will not partake of social service programs for five years and have sponsors to make sure they are not a burden on society (taxpayers). Sounds like you might be one of those Gruber voters. SMH

  • Pingback: Executive Amnesty: 400,000 Illegal Immigrants Eligible for Free Health Services in California()

  • sfsoma

    Whatever happened to the rule of law?

    • Ray Fischer

      You don’t believe in it

      • mary

        No. Obama doesn’t.

  • Sougata Bagchi


    I have gone through your blog “Newly Protected Immigrants Will Be Eligible for Medi-Cal, Advocates Say” this is such a good topic. I really enjoyed a lot and the blog is really very interesting.

    Medicali Store

  • Sougata Bagchi


    I have gone through your blog “Newly Protected Immigrants Will Be Eligible for Medi-Cal, Advocates Say” this is such a good topic. I really enjoyed a lot and the blog is really very interesting.

    Electronic Cigarette

  • Mojado Power

    Taxes are withheld from illegal immigrants pay checks, they pay taxes when ever they make purchases as consumers, and there’s taxes tacked on to their rent to. There’s millions of illegal immigrants in the U.S., so that’s a whole lot of taxes collected. Who says it will ruin our economy?

    • mary

      You must be one of those illegal immigrants who have their hand out expecting the American taxpayer to take care of you. This article is about California taxpayers and ultimately the whole taxpaying country having to foot the bill for illegal immigrants healthcare when most American citizens are struggling to pay for their own. Enough! Go back and have your own home country pay for your medical care!

      • Super Mojado Power

        Mary hermosa, you have a duty to comply and hopefuly your brain still can do it. LEARN SPANISH because WE the “mojado powers” are taking your jobs and your “free” education oportunities. Te quiero mucho USA!

        • mary

          “Wetback Power”. Wow! Now, I’ve heard it all. And, you wonder why we don’t welcome you here. Unskilled, illegal immigrants will take more out of entitlement programs than they will ever put in.

  • mary

    Reading this absurdity, several things stood out. American citizens are forced to pay for illegal immigrants to have insurance but may not be able to afford their own. And, how can undocumented immigrants get employer-sponsored insurance when they are not allowed to work in this country by law? This country is getting more f’ed up by the day.

  • Pingback: Democrats to Demand Illegal Aliens Get Free Health Care—Paid for by Taxpayers — California Political Review()


Lisa Aliferis

Lisa Aliferis is the founding editor of KQED's State of Health blog. Since 2011, she's been writing and editing stories for the site. Before taking up blogging, she toiled for many years (more than we can count) producing health stories for television, including Dateline NBC and San Francisco's CBS affiliate, KPIX-TV. She also wrote up a handy guide to the Affordable Care Act, especially for Californians. Her work has been honored for many awards. Most recently she was a finalist for "Best Topical Reporting" from the Online News Association. You can follow her on Twitter: @laliferis

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