California becomes the first state to provide comprehensive healthcare coverage to all undocumented immigrants

California made history on New Year’s Day by becoming the first state to extend eligibility for its state healthcare program to encompass all undocumented immigrants.

Approximately 700,000 immigrants, regardless of age or documentation status, will receive healthcare coverage from the Golden State, even if they are living in California illegally.

The estimated cost of the program is $3.1 billion per year, bringing California closer to its goal of providing universal health care to approximately 39 million residents.

“This historic investment speaks to California’s commitment to health care as a human right,” California State Sen. María Elena Durazo said in a statement in May.

In the past, undocumented immigrants did not qualify for comprehensive health insurance coverage. However, they were still eligible to receive emergency and pregnancy-related services through Medi-Cal, as long as they met certain requirements such as income limits and being a resident of California in 2014.

In 2015, California took a significant step in providing healthcare benefits to low-income children without legal status. Building on this initiative, the state is now implementing a comprehensive plan to expand coverage even further. As part of this ambitious effort, California will now offer full healthcare coverage to undocumented immigrants aged 26 to 49. This expansion marks an important milestone in ensuring that all individuals, regardless of their immigration status, have access to essential healthcare services.


“In California, we believe everyone deserves access to quality, affordable health care coverage – regardless of income or immigration status,” Gov. Newsom’s office told ABC News. “Through this expansion, we’re making sure families and communities across California are healthier, stronger, and able to get the care they need when they need it.”

Oregon started providing such coverage in July, making it the second state after California, the most populous state, to guarantee this kind of coverage.

Critics have already begun expressing concerns about the program as the Golden State’s plan to expand healthcare insurance to a wave of undocumented migrants does not come without backlash.

The California Senate Republican Caucus has drawn attention to the state’s budget deficit and raised concerns about whether this is an opportune moment to implement such a significant policy.

“Medi-Cal is already strained by serving 14.6 million Californians – more than a third of the state’s population. Adding 764,000 more individuals to the system will certainly exacerbate current provider access problems,” the caucus wrote last year.

Senate Minority Leader Brian Jones raised concerns about the cost of the move.

“It will cost the state over $6.5 billion annually to provide Medi-Cal to all undocumented immigrants, according to the most recent analysis by the non-partisan Legislative Analyst Office,” he told ABC News in a statement.

“Given the fact that over 300,000 undocumented migrants have crossed into California at the Mexico border in 2023 alone, the costs for this program are only going to increase from here. If Democrat politicians are the responsible leaders they claim to be, they should work with Republicans to freeze the Medi-Cal expansion for undocumented immigrants while we balance the budget.”

Studies have shown that undocumented immigrants use fewer healthcare resources than non-immigrants, despite Jones’ claims of exorbitant costs.

According to the health policy research nonprofit KFF, approximately 50% of undocumented immigrant adults in America are uninsured. In contrast, only 8% of U.S.-born citizens lack health insurance. This disparity can be attributed to the fact that undocumented adults often work in jobs that do not provide health benefits and face eligibility restrictions for federal programs.

“It’s a win-win, because it allows us to provide comprehensive care and we believe this will help keep our communities healthier,” said Dr. Efrain Talamantes, chief operating officer at AltaMed in Los Angeles, the largest federally qualified health center in California.

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