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Quality of Life

Medi-Cal Expands Coverage To All Low Income Californians 50 And Over

Scripps Mercy Hospital is pictured in Hillcrest, June 1, 2021.
KPBS Staff
Scripps Mercy Hospital is pictured in Hillcrest, June 1, 2021.

Nearly 250,000 low-income people in California now have access to low or no-cost health care that didn’t have it before.

“What a great, great day in California!" said California State Senator Maria Elena Durazo Tuesday morning as she kicked off a Zoom conference to talk about a major achievement, the expansion of Medi-Cal, a $1.3 billion expenditure over the next few years.

Medi-Cal Expands Coverage To All Low Income Californians 50 And Over
Listen to this story by John Carroll.

“We have taken a huge step forward by securing health care access for a quarter million Californians," she said.


In addition to this expansion of coverage, the new budget also eliminates the asset test for Medi-Cal eligible seniors. Before the change, if seniors had $2,000 or more in savings, they were not eligible for Medi-Cal.

RELATED: California Budget Boosts Health Care For Older Immigrants

Reaction in San Diego was positive from those who work with low income people, some of whom are undocumented.

“This is amazing and it’s a wonderful step for our undocumented families," said Chicano Federation president and CEO Nancy Maldonado.

The Federation serves about 25,000 low income families in the San Diego region every year. Maldonado said making Medi-Cal available to all low income people 50 and older is especially important as we emerge from the pandemic.


“Health and wellness is so intertwined, and just having access to health care, being able to have a health care home for our families, particularly undocumented families, can really be life-changing," she said.

Among the undocumented, Maldonado said “essential workers” are especially deserving of quality health care — people on the front line during the pandemic, including those who pick our food.

“They’re out in 117 degree heat, still going to work, still doing the things they need to do so that you and I have food on our table," she said.

The state’s unexpectedly strong financial condition is partly what made the expansion of Medi-Cal possible.

But supporters contend that there is still work to be done. They say now is the time for California to extend coverage to everyone.

“Our struggle is not done until we can end the exclusion by expanding health care to all who call this state home,” said Dr. Joaquin Arambula, a Democratic state Assembly member from Fresno.

A bill to accomplish that does exist. It’s Assembly Bill 4. But it’s been around since May of 2019 — a reminder of how difficult it is to pass this kind of legislation, and what a big deal this new expansion of Medi-Cal really is.

VIDEO: Medi-Cal Expands To Cover All Low Income Californians 50 And Older, Including Undocumented People