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Gavin Newsom touts health care plan for undocumented Californians during visit to Clinica Sierra Vista

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  • Written By: Tim Calahan
Gavin Newsom touts health care plan for undocumented Californians during visit to Clinica Sierra Vista

In an effort to close a gap in health care coverage for hundreds of thousands of Californians, Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday touted a new proposal to expand Medi-Cal access to all residents, regardless of immigration status.

Newsom detailed his plan while visiting the Clinica Sierra Vista at the Lamont Community Health Center in Kern County, which predominantly serves mixed-status and undocumented families.

“We believe in the right to quality health care,” he said. “This is about strengthening families, strengthening communities and the economy here in the state of California. It is a point of deep pride, not just principle, that we’re here in particular in the Central Valley.”

Newsom’s plan, which he unveiled Monday in his $286 billion state budget proposal, would expand access to the state’s low-income health program for an additional 764,000 undocumented Californians between the ages of 26 and 49. Coverage would begin on Jan. 1, 2024 and would cost the state an ongoing $2.7 billion annually.

Newsom is also calling for the creation of an Office of Health Care Affordability, which he said aims to “address underlying cost drivers” and reduce health care costs. He’s also hoping to allocate $1.7 billion for health infrastructure improvements, including expanding the state’s health care workforce through scholarship programs, loan repayments and grants. The plan also includes dollars for increased resources for local health departments.

Clinica Sierra Vista Chief Executive Officer Stacy Ferreira said the announcement comes at the right time, as thousands more residents seek medical care amid the ongoing COVID-19 surge.


"It's a historic day, we are grateful for these members support in taking care of our community and creating policies that are going to advance healthcare, and support our safety net in California"

Currently, undocumented people are eligible for Medi-Cal through age 26. Undocumented adults ages 50 and older will become eligible for Medi-Cal after May 1. State officials last year projected about 200,000 undocumented immigrants would be enrolled in Medi-Cal by the end of the 2026 fiscal year.

California is home to about 2 million undocumented immigrants, the largest number of undocumented people in the U.S. Newsom said the proposal not only addresses a “moral” concern, but also aims to cut costs for California taxpayers. He said opponents of the proposal should weigh how preventative health care for immigrants could reduce the burden on the health care system.

“For those who are critical of this proposal, I would only offer this: We have universal health care in this state and in this country, but it’s on the back end. It’s called the emergency room,” he said. “It’s costing you the taxpayer a fortune. That alone should be an argument in favor of universal health care.” Newsom appeared Tuesday during a press conference alongside Assemblymember Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield and civil rights leader Dolores Huerta, among other advocates.

Salas said the governor’s announcement marked a “historic moment” for the Central Valley’s undocumented population because the clinic, which was started in 1971, was created to provide quality health care to migrant farmworkers.

“We care about all Californians, we care about our families, we care about your health,” he said. “The governor’s proposal in his budget does exactly that.” Huerta said California will be the first state in the U.S. to “finally recognize our immigrants and to give them the kind of health care that they need.”