A Guide to California’s Young Adult Medi-Cal Expansion

On January 1, 2020, California will become the first state in the country to offer healthcare benefits to young adults, regardless of their immigration status. The California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) estimates 90,000 people between the ages of 19 & 26 will be newly eligible for Medi-Cal.

What does the expansion mean for the community?

Along with 2016’s expansion of Medi-Cal to undocumented children, Young Adult Medi-Cal Expansion is another chapter in California’s long history of expanding vulnerable communities’ access to affordable healthcare. Studies show that providing individuals access to preventative care, especially for chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, and high blood pressure, will allow people the opportunity to succeed in school and work by keeping them healthy, improve the health of the community, and ultimately cost all of us less money by taking care of problems before they become emergencies.

What challenges could inhibit Young Adult Medi-Cal Expansion’s success?

Local and state policymakers, medical clinics and hospitals, health plans, community-based groups, consumer advocates have been working together to ensure this policy change is successfully implemented by actually connecting uninsured individuals to affordable, preventative health coverage.
Unfortunately, the current anti-immigrant climate created by the federal government (e.g., “public charge” rules) may have a chilling effect on eligible adults. California has always welcomed immigrants, and this expansion shows local and state governments’ commitment to all of their residents. Getting the word out to neighbors, friends, and family that there are affordable health care options for everyone is critical.  

Key facts to remember: 
  • Many of those who are eligible under this expansion will not have to apply if they are already receiving restricted-scope/emergency Medi-Cal. Of the 90,000 young adults estimated to be eligible under this Medi-Cal expansion, around 70,000 currently have restricted Medi-Cal and will be automatically enrolled into full-scope Medi-Cal by January 1, 2020. They are, however, required to choose a health plan; enrollment packages will be sent out via regular mail in January.
  • Individuals who may be eligible for the expansion and do not currently have Medi-Cal do not have to wait until January 1, 2020 to apply. Individuals can apply online at Covered California, by phone, or in person. Individuals can also contact local application assisters, community-based groups, navigators, or promotores if they would like help applying for Medi-Cal or any other health coverage.
  • Individuals with immigration concerns who may be hesitant to apply should be encouraged to find out more information. Medi-Cal does not share immigration information with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for purposes of immigration enforcement and has a duty to protect the privacy of all individuals who apply for and receive Medi-Cal. A federal court has also recently blocked the implementation of the public charge rule. Individuals can ask for referrals to legal help if they have questions about their specific immigration situation but should not rely on notarios, non-legal professionals, or rumors for immigration advice.
  • Those who are eligible under this Medi-Cal expansion have been able to access health care services through local community and county clinics and hospitals. Individuals who are enrolled in the new Medi-Cal expansion can continue to see their current county or community doctors by choosing the appropriate health plan. 

“Through our mission, solutions, and people, Alluma fully supports California’s efforts to connect more of its residents to programs that provide them the opportunity to succeed,” said Sonal Ambegaokar, JD, Alluma’s Executive Director, Policy Innovation. “We are working with our local county clients to ensure a seamless transition of eligible individuals enrolled in the county’s health program to Medi-Cal so there is continuity of care during the transition.”

Wondering how this expansion affects your agency or organization? Our policy experts can help.
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Further Reading

Young Adult Expansion (DHCS)
Health4All Young Adults
Protecting Immigrant Families
Preparing for Public Charge Rule Implementation: A Guide for State and Local Administrators (Alluma)