California opens Medi-Cal to tens of thousands regardless of immigration status

LOS ANGELES -- California took a significant step toward making health care coverage available to everyone, by opening Medi-Cal to tens of thousands of people regardless of their immigration status.

Seniors 50 years of age and older eligible for Medi-Cal can now sign up, regardless of immigration status, a change effective May 1.

María Cruz says she's grateful, calling it a blessing. She remembers a time when she had to choose between her medication and putting food on the table. Cleaning houses for a living not enough to cover both.

But for the last decade, Cruz has come to Clinica Romero. She's among the 40% of undocumented patients getting healthcare there, a service expanding across the state.

"Today, 244,000 individuals who reside across California will benefit from this new law, which brings our state one step closer to health coverage for all regardless of immigration status," said Clinica Romero CEO Carlos Vaquerano.

On Monday, Cruz enrolled for Medi-Cal benefits at the clinic. She'll be among the newly covered Californians able to get preventive healthcare services anywhere Medi-Cal is accepted.

"If you grew up like I grew up with undocumented parents, you knew what it was like not to get healthcare coverage," said District 53 Assemblymember Miguel Santiago. "Many of us grew up getting health coverage at clinics."

People can enroll online, at community clinics like Clinica Romero or government offices.

Santiago says the state is one step closer to universal healthcare -- only those ages 26 to 49 left to go.

"We're fighting for that in the state budget this year," Santiago said. "And when the state budget is settled and done, we expect that to be in there."

The medical enrollment process is usually a lengthy one. People now eligible throughout these new programs are asked to bring their patience and time. It can last about 45 minutes.

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