Anna Dominguez is a first-year student at American University Washington College of Law. She graduated magna cum laude from Nazareth College with a degree in legal studies and political science.

California serves as a home to 10.5 million immigrants.[1] Impressively, approximately 78% of these immigrants in the Golden State have undergone naturalization or possess legal status while the remaining 22% are categorized as undocumented.[2] This portion of the population, comprising roughly two million undocumented individuals, significantly contributes to the robust workforce and economy of the state. In 2016, Californian officials initiated legislation to foster the well-being of the state’s undocumented populace through the implementation of healthcare policies that included opportunities for care for low-income undocumented people.[3]

“Medi-Cal” is the clever name of the Californian legislation that plays a pivotal role in shaping healthcare accessibility within the state, notably providing healthcare for undocumented individuals. While the program seems to primarily cater to those who are lawfully present in the state, it also invests in the significant population of about two million undocumented residents. The program began in 2016 and was subsequently followed by a series of expansions.[4] Currently, Medi-Cal extends healthcare access to individuals who lack lawful presence in the state, which encompasses those under the age of 26 or over the age of 50 and recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.[5] In 2024, Medi-Cal’s final expansion will allow eligibility for undocumented individuals between the ages of 26 and 49.[6] Therefore, the program will finally be available for all low-income residents, regardless of age and immigration status this year.[7]

Numerous states have embraced comparable healthcare policies with Colorado standing out for its initiative known as “OmniSalud.”[8] Colorado’s program is designed to offer fundamental essential healthcare services to all residents in the state who do not meet the criteria for other state programs, which includes individuals that may lack lawful presence in the state and recipients of DACA in Colorado.[9] Additionally, Washington State has adopted the Alien Emergency Medical Program, a medical program for individuals that do not meet the citizenship or immigration status requirements for other state health programs.[10] The increasing presence of these programs reflects the possible benefits of expansive healthcare policies, such as reducing health disparities among diverse populations and general public health concerns. These initiatives also demonstrate a commitment to equitable healthcare access and contribute to the overall resilience of historically marginalized communities.

The growing adoption of inclusive healthcare policies across the United States reminds us of the ongoing discussion about expanding public healthcare at the federal level. By addressing the healthcare needs of undocumented populations, states are setting precedent for inclusive policymaking and paving the way for similar measures at the national level. This trend highlights the importance of recognizing and addressing the healthcare needs of all individuals, regardless of their immigration status, thus fostering a more compassionate and effective healthcare system nationwide. These influential policies provoke a more comprehensive and equitable approach to the discourse surrounding federal healthcare policy.

As the state that is home to the largest number of immigrants, California’s strides to include non-citizens in their expansion of healthcare accessibility are significant.[11] The prioritization of the collective care and well-being of the state’s population is a foundational step towards a more productive, diverse, and inclusive society.

 

[1]  Marisol Cuellar Mejia et al., Immigrants in California, Pub. Pol’y Inst. of Cal. (Jan. 2024), https://www.ppic.org/publication/immigrants-in-california/.

[2] Id.

[3] Paulette Cha et al., Health Conditions and Health Care Among California’s Undocumented Immigrants, Pub. Pol’y Inst. of Cal. (Oct. 2023), https://www.ppic.org/publication/health-conditions-and-health-care-among-californias-undocumented-immigrants/.

[4] Id.

[5] Information for Immigrants, Covered Cal., https://www.coveredca.com/learning-center/information-for-immigrants/#:~:text=Immigrants%20who%20are%20not%20lawfully,pregnant%20or%20were%20recently%20pregnant (last visited Feb. 10, 2024).

[6] Paulette Cha et al., supra note 3.

[7] Id.

[8] OmniSalud Program, Colo. Dep’t of Regul. Agencies, https://doi.colorado.gov/omnisalud (last visited Feb. 10, 2024).

[9] Id.

[10] Alien Emergency Medical Programs, Wash.State Dep’t of Soc. & Health Serv., https://www.dshs.wa.gov/esa/community-services-offices/alien-emergency-medical-programs (last visited Feb. 10, 2024).

[11] Paulette Cha et al., supra note 3.