Gov. Brown’s Budget Not Specific About Medi-Cal Spending For DACA

Gov. Brown’s Budget Not Specific About Medi-Cal Spending For DACA

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SAN FRANCISCO -- While California health care advocates say they are heartened by Gov. Brown’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2016, they say he could have more clearly stated that the more than 1 million residents who may qualify for deferred action under President Obama’s recent Executive Action will have access to publicly funded health care for low income people.

“The budget summary states that community members who receive deferred action under the President's new deportation relief policy may ’potentially’ qualify for Medi-Cal, when in fact, they will certainly qualify if otherwise eligible,” said a press release from the California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC).

The budget says that those who may qualify for deferred action “could potentially” qualify for state-funded health insurance for low-income people called Medi-Cal. Such phrasing, observed Reshma Shamasunder, CIPC executive director, was a “smoke and mirrors approach.”

“Rather than smoke and mirrors, we expect Governor Brown to allocate money to invest in access to care for community members who qualify for deportation relief, so that we can get to the real work of ensuring that all Californians have access to quality, affordable health care, regardless of immigration status,” the press release went on to say.

California is one of only two states in the nation that offers state-funded health insurance for its low-income Permanent Residents Living Under Color of Law (PRUCOL). The insurance program is called Medi-Cal in California and Medicaid in the rest of the nation. Those eligible for deferred action fall under the PRUCOL category.

Obama’s recent executive action among other things removes the age ceiling for those who qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status from its current 31 years. It also provides deportation relief for parents of US citizens and green card holders, under a program called Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA).

Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, a statewide health advocacy group, said he is not overly concerned that the Gov. Brown did not allocate a specific amount in the budget for the newly eligible for deferred action because by law, California is required to provide Medi-Cal for its PRUCOL residents. Besides, no one knows exactly how many will qualify for deferred action.

In any event, the budget “is only an estimate of what he thinks will happen,” Wright said, noting that Brown could revise the budget in May.

Shamsunder said the ideal solution for all California residents would be the passage of Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, Health for All bill.

“That way, we can ensure that Californians excluded from the president’s deportation relief could have access to health coverage,” she said.