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Seven Democrats debate in South Carolina. And helping kelp forests off the West coast.

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Tonight's the last debate before the South Carolina primaries, but it's also the last before Super Tuesday, which includes California and its 494 delegates.

Medi-Cal Expanding for Qualifying Undocumented Young Adults

California is the first state to extend health care benefits to income-eligible undocumented adults younger than age 26. (Cathy Yeulet/iStockphoto)
California is the first state to extend health care benefits to income-eligible undocumented adults younger than age 26. (Cathy Yeulet/iStockphoto)
December 31, 2019

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Starting tomorrow, all low-income Californians younger than age 26 who meet the income requirements will be able to sign up for health insurance under the Medi-Cal program, regardless of immigration status.

The state estimates 138,000 young people will sign up - a small but significant chunk of the state's uninsured population. Carolina Gamero, senior communications specialist with the California Immigrant Policy Center, said that will make significant progress toward universal coverage.

"The majority of California's uninsured are undocumented folks," Gamero said. "And I believe that's around 1.4 million Californians who aren't able to access health care coverage or Medi-Cal simply because of where they were born."

In 2015, the state voted to extend coverage to all children, regardless of immigration status. Now people who were on Medi-Cal under the Health for All Kids initiative can now stay on it until age 26.

President Donald Trump has called the policy "unfair to our citizens."

But Gamero said the entire state benefits when people are healthy enough to go to school or work, when everyone can afford to get the medical, dental and mental-health care they need.

"It really is about making sure that all families are covered," she said. "It's really about ensuring the holistic health care of the entire family and, in that case, the entire community."

The expansion to undocumented adults up to age 26 is expected to cost the state about $98 million this year. Advocates for truly universal health care say the next step will be to look for ways to secure coverage for undocumented people over age 65.

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Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA